Falun Gong Barred From Iceland

REYKAJVIK, Iceland (AP) - The government on Friday barred all Falun Gong members from entering Iceland in a bid to prevent a large demonstration against Chinese President Jiang Zemin when he visits the country next week.

The government said it is the first time the country has banned members of any movement or international organization from visiting Iceland.

The move was taken in an effort to avoid the kind of protest that occurred the last time a top Chinese officials visited the country.

In September 2000, a demonstration against China's human rights record was held when Li Peng, then premier, visited Iceland, prompting him to cancel a stop at parliament, and scuffles broke out between police and protesters when they marched to Li's hotel.

Jiang is to arrive in Iceland next Wednesday for a visit that runs through June 16.

Chinese officials have long been sensitive to Falun Gong protests in other countries. They banned the group in China in July 1999, calling it a threat to communist rule, and describe it as a cult that has caused 1,700 deaths.

Falun Gong followers say it is a peaceful meditation movement that builds health. They say hundreds of followers have died as a result of police abuse and torture during the Chinese crackdown.

In Reykajvik, Ministry of Justice officials announced the Falun Gong ban on Friday, saying they had been alerted to a large planned protest against Jiang by Interpol and authorities in countries such as the United States.

Hundreds of foreign Falun Gong members were due in Iceland for the protest, and the government does not have the resources to control it and maintain public order, said Bjorn Fridfinnsson, a ministry secretary.