Iceland lifts ban on Falun Gong members entering Iceland

REYKJAVIK, Iceland (AP) Iceland lifted a ban on Falun Gong members entering the country Wednesday just as an official four-day visit by China's President Jiang Zemin was due to begin.

The government imposed the ban five days earlier after receiving 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.

In Copenhagen, Denmark, 42 Falun Gong practitioners were barred Wednesday from boarding a flight to Iceland. Following Iceland's change of heart, 16 were allowed to board a flight to Iceland, and others were expected to fly out Thursday, said Astthor Ingasson, Icelandair's station manager in Copenhagen.

Those detained in Iceland were aged between 25 and 60 and included Americans, Canadians, Chinese, Australians, Germans and Danes.

In a statement, 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, such as outside parliament.

Human rights lawyers had suggested that the government's imposition of the ban was illegal under the Icelandic constitution.