Sandberg feels heat over Iran trip
POLITICAL pressure is piling up on Norway’s fisheries minister, Per Sandberg, over his recent holiday to Iran with a former Iranian beauty queen.
Norwegian prime minister Erna Solberg said that she had spoken to Sadnberg and although there may have been a breach of regulations, she had full confidence in her minister.
But the issue was debated in the Storting, Norway’s parliament, earlier this month, with probing questions from Sandberg’s political opponents on the left over what is becoming the most talked about holiday in Norway this summer.
Sandberg flew out with Bahareh Letnes, a former Miss Iran who now runs a seafood export business. He has confirmed to the Norwegian media that he is in a relationship with the woman, who originally came to Norway as an asylum seeker but had her application rejected at least twice before being finally accepted by Oslo.
However, the issue has more to do with the country he visited, and whether he followed the correct procedures, than his travelling companion.
The salmon industry is worried the incident could eventually affect Norway’s six billion kroner exports to the United States, its fourth largest market, particularly after Donald Trump’s warning that anyone trading with Iran would not be doing business with the US.
Geir Pollestad, chairman of the Norwegian Food Committee at the Storting, told the newspaper Dagbladet that visits like Sandberg’s do not go unnoticed in the United States.
On the political front, the debate is over whether Sandberg properly notified the prime minister and his own department before his trip. According to the rules, ministers must let Oslo know where they can be contacted at all times.
He maintains that he did everything correctly, adding that the message may not have been sent until after he left as his holiday des- tination was changed at short notice - hence the regulations breach.
Solberg has said that she had known about his relationship with the Iranian and the fact that he had separated from his wife.
Labour Party member Terje Aasland, who said he is not satisfied with earlier explanations, raised concerns about the possible political implications of visiting a country with a poor human rights record.
Above: Per Sandberg