September 19, 2008 / 5:48 PM / in 9 years

Harper worried by Russia's Arctic moves

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada is worried by Russian moves to assert more control over the Arctic in apparent defiance of international treaties, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Friday.

<p>Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivers his speech during a campaign rally at St. Volodymyr Cultural Centre in Oakville September 16, 2008. Canadians will head to the polls in a federal election October 14. REUTERS/Mike Cassese</p>

Russia is flexing its muscles in the Arctic -- where it is competing with the West for control of vast energy resources -- and has started to send strategic bombers on testing flights across the North Pole toward Canada and the United States.

This week Moscow ordered officials to draft a law marking out Russia’s borders in the Arctic. Any unilateral action would breach a deal between the five Arctic Ocean countries to let the United Nations rule on rival claims.

“We’re concerned about not just Russia’s claims to the international process but Russia’s testing of Canadian airspace and other indications ... which may indicate some desire to work outside of the international framework,” Harper told reporters during an election campaign stop in Farnham, Quebec. Election day in Canada is October 14.

The U.N. wants Arctic states to submit their territorial claims for consideration by May 2009.

Ottawa has stepped up sovereignty patrols in the Arctic and last month said it would toughen reporting requirements for ships entering its waters in the Far North.

Canada claims as its territory the entire Northwest Passage -- a link between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans -- but the United States says the passage is an international waterway.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Peter Galloway

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