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18 activists arrested on Greenland oil rig

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Police on Saturday arrested 18 Greenpeace activists who climbed aboard an oil rig off Greenland’s coast to protest deepwater drilling in the Arctic.

The rig is operated by the Scottish oil group Cairn Energy and drilling has temporarily been suspended due to the protest. Cairn last month won permission to drill up to seven oil exploration wells off the Arctic island’s west coast.

Police spokesman Morten Nielsen said activists from Britain, Finland, Sweden, Italy and the Netherlands, among other countries, are being taken to Nuuk, the semiautonomous Danish territory’s capital, where they will be questioned.

“The police arrests of the 18 went peacefully, with only one activist resisting” officers, he said.

The activists launched five inflatable boats from the Greenpeace ship Esperanza early Saturday, bypassing the Danish navy and scaling the giant rig to demand that the company publish its plan for managing a potential oil spill in the freezing waters.

Greenpeace says Cairn Energy is not taking enough precautions to avoid accidents like the BP’s Gulf of Mexico blowout last year, saying the area’s remoteness and freezing temperatures would make any spill cleanup extremely difficult.

Cairn insisted it “seeks to operate in a safe and prudent manner” and that Greenland authorities have established stringent operating regulations similar to those in the North Sea. It also said it has “an extensive emergency response and oil spill response” but that plan is not publicly available due to a decision by Greenland authorities.

Greenland’s government has called the Greenpeace action a publicity stunt that comes at the expense of Greenland’s “legitimate right” to develop its economy.

Earlier this week, two Greenpeace activists were arrested under the rig, hanging just a few meters from the drill-bit. The protest prevented Cairn from starting drilling for four days.

Greenpeace says it has received a legal summons from Cairn’s lawyers for having cost the company up to $4 million for every day it could not drill and could face substantial fines for the security breaches. The lawsuit will be heard Monday in a Dutch court.

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