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    Two Russian mini-submarines have surfaced after a more than eight-hour dive to the North Pole seabed, in a symbolic Russian expedition to claim Arctic territory, the Vesti-24 TV channel reported Thursday.

    (Adds details, background, Lavrov and Gryzlov quotes in paras 2-8)

    MOSCOW, August 2 (RIA Novosti) - Two Russian mini-submarines have surfaced after a more than eight-hour dive to the North Pole seabed, in a symbolic Russian expedition to claim Arctic territory, the Vesti-24 TV channel reported Thursday.

    Russian researchers in submersibles Mir-1 and Mir-2 traveled 4,200 meters (14,000 feet) below the Pole, and planted a titanium Russian flag on the seabed.

    The dive is designed to bolster Russia's claim to 1.2 million sq kilometers (about 460,000 sq miles) of energy-rich territory - the underwater Lomonosov and Mendeleyev Ridges named after Russian scientists - which the country says is the continuation of its continental shelf.

    As man-made climate change melts the polar ice, vast reserves of oil and gas under the seafloor are likely to become accessible in future decades.

    Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking from the Philippines, said: "The goal of this expedition is not to stake Russia's claim, but to prove that our shelf spreads to the North Pole." The minister said he hoped the expedition would "allow us to acquire additional scientific proof" of this claim.

    Boris Gryzlov, speaker of the upper house of Russia's parliament, said the dive marked a new stage in exploring Russia's polar resources.

    "These are large-scale projects to explore and develop the shelf, which meet Russia's strategic interests," the speaker said. "I am proud that our country has retained leading positions in Arctic exploration."

    Canadian Foreign Minister Peter MacKay, whose country also has a large section of Arctic territorial waters, dismissed Russia's symbolic flag-planting as a meaningless gesture that does not strengthen its territorial claim.

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