Cops save, arrest Greenpeace activists

Copenhagen - Four Greenpeace activists who had clung to an oil rig off western Greenland with rock-climbing gear were arrested on Thursday after an Arctic storm forced them to abandon their environmental protest.

Police spokesperson Morten Nielsen said the four men - from the US, Finland, Poland and Germany - faced preliminary charges of violating a 500m security perimeter around the Stena Don rig and trespassing by climbing onto the installation.

The activists had been suspended under the rig since Tuesday to protest Scottish company Cairn Energy PLC's deepwater drilling in the area, saying it could spark an oil rush in sensitive Arctic waters.

The organisation said they contacted police late on Wednesday to say they were giving up because of rough weather.

"We stopped this rig drilling for oil for two days but the campaign is far from over," Greenpeace spokesperson Jon Burgwald said by telephone from the ship Esperanza, which is anchored off Greenland.

"Our activists hung there for more than 40 hours but last night, a freezing storm and high waves made them decide it was too risky. So we contacted the police to say we were stopping the action," he said.

'A grim reminder'

Nielsen said the four men were being held in Greenland. They could face fines, prison terms or deportation.

"Police were in a situation where they had to save and help some of them up because they had gotten themselves into a difficult situation," Nielsen told The Associated Press.

He said police seized a Greenpeace helicopter on Greenland on the grounds that it could be used as evidence in the investigation.

Greenland is a semi-autonomous Danish territory, and police have been monitoring the activists from a Danish navy ship patrolling the area since the activists arrived on August 16.

Cairn started drilling 175km west of Greenland's Disko Island on July 1 in depths of 300m-500m.

Greenpeace has urged Cairn to follow the example of oil companies that suspended deepwater drilling after the spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

"This beautiful fragile Arctic environment would be decimated by an oil spill," the group said in a statement. "The melting Arctic ice is a grim reminder that we need to stop burning oil and invest instead in clean energy solutions."

Cairn said last week it had discovered an undisclosed amount of natural gas in the area but failed to find crude oil. Cairn Energy is the only company drilling in the area.

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