Thursday, June 13, 2002

REYKJAVIK -- The government lifted a ban on Falun Gong [practitioners] entering the country Wednesday just as an official four-day visit by China's President Jiang Zemin was due to begin.

The ban was imposed five days earlier after the government received reports that suggested the movement, which was outlawed in China in 1999, was rallying hundreds of protesters to converge in the Icelandic capital.

Police detained more than 65 people on arrival, citing national security after Iceland said it did not have enough police to deal with a large demonstration. They were freed on Wednesday. Those detained were Americans, Canadians, Chinese, Australians, Germans and Danes.

Prime Minister David Oddsson said the ban had been lifted because Falun Gong had agreed to cooperate "in every way" with police. One condition imposed was that Falun Gong hold street protests only in designated areas.