Santa strapped for cash

Stockholm - Santa's little helpers have downed tools at North Pole post offices in Greenland and Iceland, leaving piles of children's Christmas letters unanswered and thousands of dreams unfulfilled.

Carefully penned letters full of Christmas requests which are sent to Santa every year by children from all over the world have fallen victim to government spending cuts.

"Kids can send a letter to Santa but they won't get an answer," Siri Kveller, of the Santa Claus of Greenland Foundation said. "The more letters we answered, the more we got and we simply can't afford it."

Two years ago, official funding for the project was withdrawn and the service stopped. Now the letters are put into storage - mostly unopened.

Children who address their letters to "Santa Claus, North Pole, Iceland" probably won't have much luck either. The state-sponsored Icelandic tourism board, which once answered the letters, was forced by budget cuts to stop the project about 15 years ago.

An organisation called North Pole in Iceland, has taken over some of the job and is campaigning to make the country Santa's "rightful home". Sweden, Finland, and Canada also claim residency rights.

Children who write to the Finland address have a better chance of getting a reply, but even then it is luck of the draw. The post office's Santa project received 600,000 letters this year and staff say it is impossible to answer them all.

The spirit of Christmas lives on in Sweden, however. The post office receives up 80,000 letters a year and each one is answered with a small gift.