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Four held after Arctic storm halts Greenland protest

Four Greenpeace activists who clung to an oil rig off western Greenland using rock-climbing gear have been arrested after an Arctic storm forced them to abandon their protest.

The four men – from the US, Finland, Poland and Germany – faced preliminary charges of violating a 1,650ft security perimeter around the Stena Don rig and trespassing by climbing on to the installation.

The activists had been suspended under the rig since Tuesday to protest over British oil exporter Cairn Energy's deepwater drilling in the area, saying it could spark an oil rush in sensitive Arctic waters. Greenpeace said they contacted police on Wednesday to say the protesters were giving up due to rough weather.

"We stopped this rig drilling for oil for two days but the campaign is far from over," Jon Burgwald, Greenpeace spokesman, 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.

Danish police spokesman Morten 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," Mr Nielsen told The Associated Press.