NORWAY’S combative Fisheries Minister Per Sandberg has run into a political row at home over a private holiday visit to Iran with a 27-year-old former Iranian beauty queen who is now in business as a seafood exporter.
Torgeir Fylkesnes from the Socialist Left VG Party has put down a parliamentary question asking the Minister to explain the visit. He said: “I feel that we lack certain information, so I think everyone is best served by answering some questions in the Storting, (the Norwegian parliament).
The AP (Labour) party has also said it would like clarification. VG claimed he was on holiday with a woman called Bahareh Letnes and who is engaged in the “production, development, buying and selling of fish and seafood”. She was voted Miss Iran in 2013.
But 58-year-old Sandberg has said he was on a private holiday in Iran, adding that he had no comment to make on the VG Party’s “desire to delve into the details of his private life. “This was a trip I did as a private person, not as Minister of Fisheries, ” he insisted.
The Fisheries Minister, who is a member of the Centre Right Progress Party, has often found himself in the political firing line, attracting criticism from the Left over his refusal to countenance extra taxes on the fish farming industry, declaring they pay enough already.
He has recently implemented a large scale growth plan for fish farming and pledged to reform the catching sector, a move that was not always popular with some sections of the industry. In March he temporarily took over the role of Justice Minister (in addition to his fishing post) following a separate political row.
With a population of more than 80 million, Sandberg is known to be keen to increase seafood exports to Iran , arguing it offers huge growth potential for Norway’s fishing and aquaculture industry. But this visit, he insists, was a private holiday, and he has no intention of explaining it to his opponents on the left.
However, diplomats with a knowledge of the Middle East say it is always unwise for an unmarried couple to be seen travelling in Iran together, even if one of them is a senior Norwegian minister.