POLITICAL pressure is piling up on Norway’s Fisheries Minister Per Sandberg over his recent holiday to Iran with a former Iranian beauty queen.
It has now involved the Prime Minister Erna Solberg who said that she had spoken to him and although there may have been a breach of regulations, she had full confidence in her minister.
But the issue is due for debate in the Storting, Norway’s Parliament, next week with probing questions expected from his political opponents on the left over what is becoming the most talked about holiday in Norway this summer.
Sandberg flew out with the 28-year-old Norwegian-Iranian called Bahareh Letnes, a former Miss Iran, but who now runs a seafood export business. He has confirmed to the Norwegian media that he is in a love 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, it is more to do with the country he visited and whether he followed the correct procedures rather 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 as Iran has now overtaken North Korea as Donald Trump’s public enemy number one.
Geir Pollestad chairman of the Norwegian Food Committee at the Storting, told the newspaper Dagbladet that visits like this 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 setting off. 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 been sent until after he left as his holiday destination was changed at short notice. Hence the regulations breach. Erna Solberg has said that she had known about his relationship with the Iranian and the fact that he had separated from his wife.
Sandberg can expect to come under attack in the Storting next week. Labour Party member Terje Aasland, who said he is not satisfied with earlier explanations, will question him about the visit, his relationship with someone who is now a seafood exporter and whether the Prime Minister was aware of the trip beforehand. He will also ask about possible political implications of visiting a country with a poor human rights record.