G7 Arctic meeting told not to fret about armed men

Wed Feb 3, 2010 4:11pm EST
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Foreign ministers and central bankers nervous about meeting in Canada's Arctic should not be worried if they see armed men speeding around on snowmobiles, local police said on Wednesday.

This weekend, top officials from the Group of Seven nations will gather in Iqaluit, the tiny snowbound capital of Canada's Nunavut territory and a place more used to hunters than distinguished foreign guests.

Police Sergeant Jimmy Akavak said it was common to see hunters roaring off on their machines in the morning and returning as darkness fell.

"We're warning the other security (officials) from the south, and their delegates, that if you see a person with a rifle on their back, don't be alarmed," he said by telephone.

"It's something they may have to get used to in the next few days."

Akavak said specially trained Royal Canadian Mounted Police would be flying up from Ottawa to bolster the local contingent. Security forces are not expecting a specific threat, he added.

The high cost of flying to Iqaluit -- the cheapest return tickets from Ottawa cost around C$2,000 ($1,900) -- and the scarcity of accommodation in the town of about 6,000 means the chances of major protests are remote.

The Canadian military said it would provide two airliners to help ferry delegates around, but would not send troops to Iqaluit, which is just 1,500 km (935 miles) from the North Pole.

($1=C$1.06 Canadian)

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Rob Wilson)