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Island squabble goes Google

Canadians, Danes debate control of Arctic rock

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OTTAWA, Ontario (Reuters) -- A spat between Canada and Denmark over a tiny Arctic island has moved to the Internet, where a Canadian man is dueling an unknown opponent over who really owns the disputed lump of rock.

The two have placed online ads about which country controls the 1.3 square kilometer (half a square mile) Hans Island, situated between Canada's Ellesmere Island and Greenland, which belongs to Denmark.

Toronto author Rick Broadhead said he bought an advertisement on Internet search engine Google after spotting a Danish ad that said "Does Hans sound Canadian? Danish name, Danish island."

That ad linked to the Danish Foreign Ministry's Web site and a copy of a protest letter Copenhagen sent Ottawa after Canada's defense minister visited the island.

Broadhead's ad showed a large Canadian Maple Leaf flag, and it now carries the message: "Hans Island is Canadian."

"To my knowledge this is the first time that a squabble has ever broken out between two nations on Google," he told Reuters on Thursday.

Canadian newspapers are using the affair to generate summer entertainment -- one suggested Ottawa should set up a coffee and doughnut outlet on the rock, which is 1,000 km (620 miles) from the North Pole.

But some observers say the dispute could turn nasty if it turns out that Hans Island is sitting on rich mineral resources.

For the time being the two sides seem to have decided that a sense of humor is needed when discussing the matter.

"Notwithstanding the disputed area, the Canadian Foreign Affairs Ministry is allowing its cafeteria to sell Danish pastries as a goodwill gesture towards the Danish government and people," ministry spokesman Reynald Doiron said.

Copyright 2005 Reuters. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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