Dissent brews over Norway's military aid offer to UN

August 22nd, 2006  

Topic: Dissent brews over Norway's military aid offer to UN

Source: Aftenposten English Web Desk

Norway's active efforts to secure peace in the Middle East made it impossible for its coalition government to refuse to take part in the UN's peacekeeping force in Lebanon. Concerns over Norway's role in the military build-up linger in Parliament, however.

The government, without seeking Parliamentary approval, said it was offering four naval vessels and 100 troops to patrol the coast of Lebanon. Espen Barth Eide of the Defense Ministry said the naval vessels and their crews could be in place off Lebanon by the end of September.

Norwegian military officials, already facing a shortage of officers and soldiers at home, had a dilemma in deciding how to respond to the UN’s call for help. Norway’s army already has around 500 soldiers in Afghanistan and a few hundred are expected to be sent to Sudan.

That left the Navy as the arm of the military with some capacity to help out in Lebanon. And even though one of the three parties making up Norway’s coalition government is traditionally opposed to military deployment overseas, the Socialist Left apparently went along with the Labour and Center parties in agreeing to propose a naval contribution to the peace-keeping efforts.

Siv Jensen, leader of the conservative Progress Party, was angered by the government’s offer since it lacked parliamentary support.

"It’s the Parliament that decides whether Norway shall take part in this type of international operation," she said. "In this case, forces have been offered to the UN... without parliamentary groups being informed or consulted."

Thorbjørn Jagland, president of the Parliament and a former Labour Party boss, says he won't grant Jensen's call for an extraordinary session to handle Norway's contribution to the UN force.

"But the final decision does lie in the Parliament," conceded Jagland, adding that he expected the government to contact the leader of the foreign relations committee.

He also told news bureau NTB that it would have been "an advantage" if the government had met with the committee to discuss Norway's contribution before it was announced in the media.
August 22nd, 2006  
Team Infidel
I didn't know Norway has such a small military

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