24 March 2003


Swedish PM “out to lunch”, says Petersen (Aftenposten/Saturday)

Sweden’s Prime Minister Göran Persson is “out to lunch” when he says that the US assault on Iraq is a violation of international law, according to Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen. His comment came in a conversation with journalists after Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik’s speech to the Storting on the situation in Iraq. The Norwegian government has a different view. In his speech, Mr Bondevik maintained that “the material requirements for the use of force under international law” in Iraq “are clearly present”, but said that the “procedural requirements” under international law, ie the way the issue was handled, had not been met, since the UN Security Council had not managed to agree on a second resolution. The Government therefore believes that there is no “clear basis under international law for the use of force”, which means it cannot support the war. At the same time, however, Mr Bondevik underlined the fact that the absence of a second Security Council resolution did not automatically imply that a military offensive was in violation of international law. Labour’s Thorbjørn Jagland, chairman of the Storting’s Foreign Affairs Committee, agreed with Mr Bondevik’s observations about the differences between material and procedural requirements. Mr Jagland said that the PM had given a thorough summing up of the Iraq situation.

Christians and Muslims come together in Oslo to pray for peace (Aftenposten)

A jointly held conviction that no religion can be used as an argument for war brought Christians and Muslims together in large numbers at a mosque in Oslo yesterday. United by fear that the warlords will use God as an alibi for war, and grief over the commencement of hostilities, church ministers, including Father Niklas Goryczka of the St Hallvard Catholic Church, and Muslim clerics from the multi-ethnic, inner-city borough of Grønland, brought their coreligionists together to pray for peace. The Rev. Rune Behring of the Grønland Parish Church told the assembled worshippers: “We are gathered here to show our willingness for peace across religious boundaries. No one must be allowed to use this war to sow discord between us.”

Peace demonstration ends in rioting (Dagsavisen/Sunday)

Saturday’s peace demonstration in Oslo turned into a street fight between the police and some of the demonstrators. As the anti-war demonstration outside the US Embassy in Oslo drew to a close, around 50 demonstrators started throwing stones and other objects at the embassy building and at the police. Police officers, some mounted on horseback, used teargas, batons, and dogs against the demonstrators. The fighting moved from Drammensveien, where the US Embassy is located, down towards Spikersuppa, the park area in front of the Storting. It was here that around 10 demonstrators were arrested and handcuffed. In all 15-20 people were arrested. According to reports from NRK, two demonstrators required medical treatment for dog bites.

Hagen claims Progress Party has taken over Conservatives’ role (Verdens Gang/ Saturday)

According to Progress Party chairman Carl I. Hagen, his party has completely taken over the Conservatives’ traditional role in the Iraq conflict. “Previously, we represented the same political line, but the Conservatives have veered off from their main direction. It is the Progress Party that is now pursuing the Conservatives’ foreign and security policy objectives,” said Mr Hagen. During the debate on Iraq in the Storting on Friday, Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik and his government received voluble praise from all quarters, not least from dyed-in-the-wool anti-war protester Kristin Halvorsen, leader of the Socialist Left Party. Only Mr Hagen was on the attack. He too has previously supported the Government’s insistence on following the UN route. But following the failure of the Security Council to reach agreement, he believes that the Government made a serious mistake in not supporting the USA and Britain. “We have betrayed our friends and allies. When our close friends believe they are fighting a defensive war and ask for our assistance, we should do what we can as a matter of course. At least provide political support. It would have cost us nothing,” said Mr Hagen.

Worth Noting

  • The Immigration Directorate is proposing that police officers attend courses to increase their awareness of the racial harassment suffered by members of ethnic minorities by their neighbours. Some immigrants have moved house as a result of abuse by their Norwegian neighbours. The Immigration Directorate wants to send police officers on courses so that they can learn the difference between a normal dispute between neighbours and racial discrimination. The Immigration Directorate has carried out a study of racial discrimination in residential areas. On the positive side, there are relatively few cases of discrimination. But those that do occur are so serious that the Immigration Directorate considers many of them amount to criminal offences. One of the key conclusions to emerge from the study is that police officers should be sent on courses so that the long arm of the law can determine whether the quarrel between neighbours is about the height of a hedge or the colour of someone’s skin.

  • Attorney Brynjar Meling decided on Friday to file charges alleging police brutality during the arrest of Mullah Krekar on Thursday evening. Krekar and his family felt the way his arrest was handled was dramatic and unnecessarily brutal. They are now demanding that the Special Police Investigation Commission (SEFO) investigate the incident.

  • Despite the fact that Norway fought hard to get elected to the UN Security Council, only a tiny minority of people think that Norway had any significant influence on the Council’s decision-making. Only seven per cent of the population think that the Norwegian authorities’ efforts on the Council had any major significance, according to a survey carried out by the Norwegian United Nations Association. 46 per cent of those questioned said that they did not think Norway had had any impact, while 36 per cent thought Norway’s influence was only marginal. The Norwegian United Nations Association will present its findings at a meeting on Monday to discuss Norway’s role on the Security Council. The meeting will be attended by, among others, Foreign Minister Jan Petersen.

  • Stavanger’s celebrated Rosenberg shipyard is up for sale again. But before that, several hundred workers will lose their jobs. Thousands of jobs have already been axed through a series of cost-cutting programmes. In the next three years several hundred more workers will be told to go. Despite this, senior union representative Einar Risa does not think the situation is wholly black, though he does not hide the fact that the loss of the Snow White contract is still painful. He blames the politicians. “It is simple. Are we going to have an industrial base in this country, or are we not? It is up to the politicians to decide,” said Mr Risa.

Today’s comment from Verdens Gang

The worse the company’s financial results, the bigger the executives’ pay cheques. That seems to be the policy at SAS. While the beleaguered airline is forced to publish year-end accounts literally dripping with blood red losses, the company’s executives are the happy recipients of a massive SEK 36 million in bonuses. In the past two years SAS has accumulated losses of SEK 1.5 billion, and thousands of employees have been told to find new jobs. It is possible that the airline’s management, with chairman Egil Myklebust at the helm, considers a few million kroner in bonuses to be neither here nor there when the losses are well over the billion mark. But it is not only the company’s employees who feel provoked by the fact that its executives obviously feel they deserve huge bonuses, in addition to their already generous salaries, at a time when SAS’s financial results are as deplorable as they have been in recent years. Now that plans are currently being laid for additional cost-cutting measures, intended to save SEK 12 billion with the loss of 4,500 jobs, we expect management to act with considerably more wisdom than they have to date.


Biathlon Word Championships

Ole Einar Bjørndalen won the gold medal in the final event of the Biathlon World Championships, the 15 km mass start, on Sunday.