20 March 2003

Norwegian political leaders regret attack on IraqNorway gears up for operations in Iraq Bishop calls attack a clear violation of international law Red Cross leader says attackers have a grave responsibility Today’s comment from DagsavisenSport

Norwegian political leaders regret attack on Iraq (NTB)

Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik (Chr.Dem) has described last night’s attack on Iraq as both regrettable and sad, while Progress Party chairman Carl I. Hagen called on the Government to give its support to the USA and Britain as soon as possible. Foreign Minister Jan Petersen (Con) said he hoped the war against Iraq would be short.

“This is first and foremost a sad day,” said the PM. “War is always a horrible thing, and we regret that it has come to this pass.” At a press conference early on Thursday morning, Mr Bondevik said that Norway had hoped that Saddam Hussein would comply with the demands made by the UN over many years, enabling a peaceful solution to the conflict. He added that he hoped the military action would be concluded as soon as possible.

Progress Party chairman Carl I. Hagen hopes that the USA, Britain and their close allies will remove Saddam Hussein and his regime as quickly as possible, and that civilian casualties will be as few as possible. “But it is regrettable that Norway no longer finds itself among the USA and Britain’s close allies. The Government should have contributed support for the disarming of Iraq, also militarily if a request for such assistance had been made,” he said.

According to Socialist Left Party leader Kristin Halvorsen, Norway should make it clear to the USA and Britain that the attack on Iraq was unacceptable. “The Norwegian government should say explicitly that Norway does not accept the USA simply doing as it pleases. The attack on Iraq violates international law and is totally unacceptable,” said Ms Halvorsen.

Newly elected Centre Party leader Åslaug Haga described the USA’s attack on Iraq on Wednesday night as meaningless. She believes the UN weapons inspectors should have been given more time. “The military offensive is meaningless and sad – meaningless as long as there was still hope that the weapons inspectors could have disarmed Iraq. The chief weapons inspector Hans Blix said the job would be completed in a matter of months. He should have been given that time,” Ms Haga told NTB. She believes the USA and Britain have a different agenda to that of the UN – regime change, rather than simply disarmament.

Norway gears up for operations in Iraq (Aftenposten)

At a few weeks’ notice, Norway will be ready to help the USA with humanitarian operations and the rebuilding of Iraq. Planning is already underway, and Norwegian personnel could be deployed before the war is over. The USA can therefore count on Norway’s support in the final assault on Iraq. Efforts are now underway to put together teams of military and civilian personnel who can at short notice, and after getting the go-ahead from the USA, provide humanitarian aid and assist with the reconstruction of Iraq’s infrastructure as the USA gradually takes control of the country. According to sources Aftenposten has spoken to, there are strong indications that Norway is one of the 15 countries which the USA now counts as supporters in the forthcoming Iraq offensive – even though both Foreign Minister Jan Petersen and Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik yesterday expressed their doubts about that. According to Foreign Ministry sources, the threshold for being included in this group has been set deliberately low by the American authorities.

Bishop calls attack a clear violation of international law (nrk.no)

“This is a tragic situation,” said the Bishop of Oslo, Gunnar Stålsett. He described last night’s attack on Iraq as a clear violation of international law. “Churches throughout the world have never before been so united in their views on and condemnation of a situation,” Bishop Stålsett told NRK. He underlined that a particular cause for grief was the plight of the civilian population in Iraq, who have suffered for so many years under a dictator, and who are now laid open to the might of the world’s most powerful war machine.

Red Cross leader says attackers have a grave responsibility (NTB)

Jan Egeland, General Secretary of the Norwegian Red Cross, has warned the USA and Britain not to forget the civilian population in connection with their attack on Iraq. “The attacking nations have a large and heavy responsibility to comply with international law, spare the civilian population and attack only military targets and command posts,” Mr Egeland told NTB. He is worried that the country’s electricity and water supplies could be damaged in the fighting. “This would have dramatic consequences. Water treatment plants are dependent on electricity supplies, and the population needs these plants to prevent diseases being spread through contaminated drinking water,” he said. The International Red Cross has ten aid workers in Iraq. The Norwegian Red Cross itself has 17 Norwegian aid workers in the region, stationed in Iran, Jordan, Kuwait and Israel.

1. Worth Noting

  • Norwegian aid worker Tor Valla was detained in Iraq because the financial accounts he had with him were a copy and not the original document. Last night he was on his way out of the country. The problem arose on Tuesday when Iraqi officials discovered that Mr Valla had USD 20,000 – 25,000 on him as he was about to leave the country. Mr Valla had left the original version of the financial accounts at Norwegian Church Aid’s office in Baghdad, and had taken only a copy with him. This was not enough for the Iraqi border guards. He was therefore held in detention by the Iraqi authorities for 24 hours. According to Norwegian Church Aid, the Iraqis finally admitted that Mr Valla had done everything correctly.

  • The generous dividends paid out by Sponsor Service were financed by the company’s bank. The administrators of Sponsor Service’s bankrupt estate are now considering whether to demand the money be repaid, and the National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime has been asked to investigate. Despite the fact that the bank was keeping Sponsor Service afloat, enormous sums were paid to company shareholders in the form of dividends. Sponsor Service had had severe liquidity problems in recent years, due to the wholescale acquisition of competing businesses and a revenue shortfall from sponsorship agreements whose value had already been entered into the accounts. The need for cash was met by taking out loans and through the addition of fresh capital from new shareholders. According to the liquidator’s preliminary report, these additional funds “were partly used to pay out dividends”.

  • Support for the Socialist Left Party is larger than support for the Labour Party. This means that Kristin Halvorsen’s party would have the largest number of seats in the Storting if there had been a general election now. An opinion poll shows that the Socialist Left Party would have the largest number of representatives, 43, while the Labour Party would have 40. “The surge in support for the Socialist Left Party comes primarily as a result of a mobilization of social values among the voters. They want a society in which the community as a whole takes responsibility for important social welfare tasks, instead of leaving everything to the forces of market liberalism,” said Ms Halvorsen. She believes opposition to the war in Iraq is only part of the explanation for the Socialist Left Party’s current success.

2. Today’s comment from Dagsavisen

According to the poll published in today’s Dagsavisen, the Socialist Left Party has taken a narrow lead over the Labour Party. A corresponding general election result would have made the Socialist Left Party the largest party in the Storting. Together, the Socialist Left Party and the Labour Party would have a small overall majority, enabling them to take office. The poll would have given the Socialist Left 43 seats, while the Labour Party would have 40. The Centre Party can once again muster the minimum number of votes needed to win a seat. An election result of this kind would therefore have given a comfortable majority to a centre-left government. The main reason for the Socialist Left Party’s success and the Labour Party’s slide in popularity is the population’s strong opposition to war in Iraq. When the Labour Party chose to fall into line behind Foreign Minister Jan Petersen’s limp response to the USA’s unswerving drive towards war, the Socialist Left Party and the Centre Party immediately took over the role of critical opposition. It has cost the Labour Party dear.

3. Sport

Biathlon World Championships

Halvard Hanevold won the gold medal in the 20 km men’s event on Wednesday.