US & Canada

Oregon: Armed protesters reject sheriff's offer

Ammon Bundy (L) meets Sheriff David Ward on a road south of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon. 7 Jan 2016 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Ammon Bundy, left, met Sheriff David Ward at a neutral location

The leader of a group of armed protesters occupying a wildlife refuge in the US state of Oregon has refused a sheriff's offer to end the stand-off.

Ammon Bundy turned down the offer by Harney County Sheriff David Ward to escort the occupiers out of the state.

The group took over Malheur National Wildlife Refuge centre near Burns to support father and son ranchers who have been ordered to return to jail.

The case has riled right-wing activists who resent government interference.

Mr Bundy briefly left the centre with other occupiers on Thursday to meet Sheriff Ward on a roadside nearby.

The two sides plan to talk again on Friday, the sheriff's office said.

Ranchers Dwight Hammond, 73, and his son Steven, 46, were convicted of arson on federal land in 2012, but a court ruled their original sentences were too short.

The men say they set the fires to contain wildlife.

Image copyright Reuers
Image caption The protesters occupying the centre are heavily armed

The Hammonds' lawyer has said the family does not want the protesters' support.

However, those occupying the wildlife refuge centre say they may use violence if police try to evict them.

Correspondents say the incident is part of a decades-old conflict between ranchers and the federal government over the use of public land.

Critics of the federal government argue that it often oversteps its authority over land use.

Ammon Bundy's father Cliven was involved in a stand-off with the government over grazing rights in 2014.

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