Norway investing in armored vehicles

The Norwegian government is planning to invest more than $1 billion to procure new armored vehicles and upgrade its current fleet. The defense contractor that stands to benefit most from the investment is Sweden's BAE Systems Hagglunds but the Ministry of Defense that there will, by government guidelines, be repurchase or Norwegian industry collaboration. "For us, it was important that the Norwegian industry has a significant role in the project in the areas where Norwegian industry has the greatest expertise and the opportunity for subsequent export," said Norwegian Defense Minister Espen Barth Eide.
"In areas such as sensors, communications, command and control systems, it is planned that the project deliverables will consist mainly of equipment from Norwegian suppliers."The plan is for Norway's army to operate 146 new or rebuilt CV-90 armored infantry fighting vehicles, the Ministry of Defense said.The army currently has 103 CV-90 of the armored personnel carriers.

Nordic Foreign Ministers meeting in Stavanger

Nordic cooperation is developing rapidly. When the Nordic Foreign Ministers came together in Stavanger on 4 May, they discussed ways of strengthening Nordic cooperation and a number of important international issues. One of the platforms for deepening cooperation on foreign and security policy is the 2009 Stoltenberg Report, which outlines specific proposals for closer cooperation in 13 different areas. The Nordic countries have issued a Nordic declaration of solidarity under which they have undertaken to cooperate in a spirit of solidarity to meet challenges in the foreign and security policy area.
Cooperation on cyber security
In the Nordic declaration of solidarity, mention is made of cyber attacks, which already pose a major security challenge. There will be a focus on Nordic cooperation on cyber security in the time ahead, and it has already been decided that a classified communication network between the Nordic capitals will be established. The network will make it possible in the event of a cyber incident targeting one or more Nordic countries to notify the others, analyse the situation and make preparations for any necessary measures securely and effectively.

This technical network is an important step towards translating the Nordic declaration of solidarity into concrete measures and will strengthen the cooperation between the Nordic countries on cyber security. The Foreign Ministers agree that such a network should be established as quickly as possible.

Cooperation between Nordic embassies
The Nordic Foreign Ministers welcome new concrete proposals for places where Nordic diplomatic and consular missions can share premises with a view to strengthening cooperation between them. This would be valuable for promoting common Nordic foreign policy priorities, heightening the Nordic profile and ensuring better use of resources.

On the basis of a closer examination of individual projects, for example to determine whether they would save resources in the long term, we are considering the possibility of several Nordic embassies sharing premises in Asia, Africa, America and Europe. Concrete decisions in this matter will be taken at the next Nordic Foreign Ministers meeting in November.

Nordic NATO cooperation
The Foreign Ministers underlined the need to further develop the cooperation between NATO and its partner countries. In connection with the NATO Summit in Chicago, the Nordic countries will highlight Nordic cooperation on defence and security policy as an important contribution to the security of the Alliance and the Nordic region, and an example of the great benefits to be gained from joint solutions. The strong partnerships the Alliance has built through joint efforts in, for example, Afghanistan and Libya must be further developed and strengthened.

The Nordic countries will continue their broad engagement in Afghanistan. As a follow-up to the 3C initiative to support adequate funding for the Afghan security forces, the Nordic countries are working to ensure that agreement is reached at the Chicago Summit on a model for the long-term international financing of Afghan security forces in cooperation with the Afghan authorities and the whole international community.

The Nordic countries will seek actively to move women, peace and security higher up on the NATO agenda. The Nordic Centre for Gender in Military Operations in Stockholm, which was inaugurated in January, is an important contribution to NATO's continued efforts in this area.   

Syria
The Nordic countries fully support Special Envoy Kofi Annan's efforts to bring about a political solution to the conflict in Syria. The Syrian authorities must first of all end the violence and withdraw all troops. They must also allow free and unimpeded humanitarian access to all parts of the country. A political dialogue must then be initiated to prepare the ground for a democratic Syria where the rights of minorities are also safeguarded. The Nordic countries will continue their close, constructive cooperation on Syria, among other things within the international Group of Friends of Syria.

The Nordic countries have placed observers at the disposal of the UN observer force in Syria. The force must have sufficient guarantees for its safety and freedom of movement in order to carry out its mission. It is important to gain broad-based international support for the call on the Syrian authorities to fully implement Special Envoy Kofi Annan's six-point plan.

Ukraine
The Nordic Foreign Ministers are deeply concerned about politically motivated legal proceedings in Ukraine. The selective justice we are witnessing in Ukraine is worrying, and the situation must therefore be followed closely. It is particularly important that Ukraine respects international legal norms and fulfils its human rights obligations. As a member of the Council of Europe and the OSCE, Ukraine must comply with its international obligations.

The Nordic Foreign Ministers are deeply concerned about the situation of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. The Ukrainian authorities have a particular responsibility for immediately carrying out independent investigations of allegations of torture and other forms of inhuman or degrading treatment. Ms Tymoshenko must be given adequate medical treatment. She must also be given unrestricted access to her lawyers. The Ukrainian authorities should also allow her to be visited by family members and international representatives in Ukraine.

Myanmar/Burma
The promising political changes in Myanmar/Burma are taking place at the same time as the Nordic countries are intensifying their political, development and commercial efforts to support the democratic process that is being led by the Burmese people. In order to support the political processes, the Nordic countries have offered to help with competence-building and provide other assistance, for example by supporting implementation of the ceasefires in the ethnic minority areas, including the establishment of a fund to finance these efforts, and providing technical assistance in connection with Myanmar's/Burma's development strategy. We can provide expertise in important areas such as good governance, the principles of the rule of law, corporate social responsibility and sound management of natural resources.

Gender equality
The Nordic countries will continue their broad-based efforts in the UN and other international forums to promote women's rights and gender equality. The implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security is of key importance in these efforts. The Nordic Foreign Ministers are particularly concerned about violence against women and the campaign that is currently being waged against women's rights and gender equality.

Further dramatic F-35 cost increases could force Norway to reconsider programme

If there is a further dramatic cost increase on the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), Norway will reconsider its participation in the programme. "If there should happen to be something that would really affect the cost curves in the next months, in the next years, all nations including Norway will, of course, reconsider the whole project," says Norway's state secretary for Defence, Roger Ingebrigtsen. "I have no reasons to believe that. I was more nervous two years ago than I am today." Should something go horribly wrong, however, Norway would be forced to reconsider the programme, he says. But Norway needs the F-35.

"The best we can get is the F-35," Ingebrigtsen says. There is a reason that a nation like Japan, which has signed onto the programme comparatively late, has selected the stealthy fifth-generation jet for its arsenal, he says. But US support for the F-35 is critical.

"I hope the politicians in the United States stay strong on the F-35 programme," he says.

The country will buy 52 of the jets. But even with its increasing oil wealth, the Nordic nation cannot afford to pay for all of those aircraft at the same time. So the country will have to stagger its procurements.

"It's really a huge sum of money," Ingebrigtsen says. "Therefore we have to spread it out."

For Norway, the F-35 is its largest ever defence procurement. The runner-up is Lockheed's own F-16, which Norway bought in 1977, Ingebrigtsen says.

Getting the F-35 on the timeline it has set is important for the country because its F-16s will reach the end of their lives around 2020-2022. The country will start off its procurement with four jets in 2015, which will be used for training. A further six would be purchased in 2017. Later jets would be bought in 2022 through 2023, but buys could stretch through 2024 if necessary.

But Norway wants the US to jointly integrate the Kongsberg Joint Strike Missile onto the F-35, and it wants the US to sign onto the programme, Ingebrigtsen says. The weapons could be useful to the US against ships and land targets. After a series of meetings with US officials, Ingebrigtsen says, "We feel [confident] that the United States supports this missile."

Another issue that affects the Norwegian F-35 buy is the installation of a braking parachute to operate on icy runways in the far north. The country needs that parachute for its fleet and if the problem cannot be resolved by 2015, that could delay a Norwegian buy.

"Lockheed Martin needs to solve this," he says. "We need parachutes on the first fighter we procure."

Meanwhile, Norway is in discussions to replace a Lockheed C-130J Hercules that crashed earlier in the year. But the cause of that crash has not yet been discovered, the investigation cannot be completed until the summer when the weather is warmer.

Norway closes its embassy in Syria

The Norwegian Embassy in Damascus has been closed until further notice because of the security situation. ''We have decided to close the embassy in Damascus because of the security situation. A Norwegian diplomat will stay in Damascus in order to maintain contact with political actors and report on the situation in the country. The diplomat will be attached to the Danish Embassy, said Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store. This arrangement is a continuation of the close cooperation between Nordic countries foreign services.

Norway F-35 decision about 4 to 5 weeks away

Norway's defence secretary Roger Ingebrigtsen and an entourage of military officials visited the F-35 test force at Edwards AFB, California, during the last week of February. The visit to the desert base comes at a time when Norway is trying to finalise how many aircraft it will ultimately buy. "Right now we're in the process where the Norwegian government is about to make a recommendation to their parliament as far as how many F-35s we want to buy and where we should base these aircraft," says Major Eystein Kvarving, a spokesman for the Norwegian Defence Ministry on 29 February in press release issued by the US Air Force. "That recommendation is about to four to five weeks out and this is a major issue in Norwegian media and a major issue in the Norwegian public."

The northern European nation has already ordered four aircraft, but might buy as many as 48 of the stealthy fifth-generation jets.

Norway is a proponent of NATO's smart defence initiative and has championed pooling together the limited resources available to the European F-35 partners for training and sustainment.

In January, Espen Barth Eide, Norway's Defense Minister, had said during a visit to Washington that discussions for pooling such resources were already underway.

Norwegian tourist found dead in India

A 35-year-old Norwegian tourist was found dead under mysterious circumstances in his hotel room here onThursday, police said. Oystain Hodne was staying in a hotel on Sikar Road here along with his Indian wife Jasvindar and three children. "He had come to Jaipur from Norway a few days ago. The family had been to many tourist places in the city," said police inspector Kushal Singh. "The hotel staff told us that he had consumed alcohol excessively on Wednesday night. He had been demanding liquor from the hotel staff till wee hours Thursday," said the officer.
When his 31-year-old wife tried to wake him up in the morning, she did not get any response. "She then informed the hotel authorities," said the officer.

Hodne was rushed to hospital, where doctors declared him brought dead.

"We are awaiting post-mortem report to ascertain if there was any foul play. However, there were no visible external injury marks on his body," he added.

Norway to increase bilateral loan to IMF

Norway has offered to lend more money to the IMF, in addition to the earlier offer of up to NOK 55 billion (equivalent to 7 billion Euros), as a bilateral loan, Dagens Næringsliv reports. In this way Norway wants to contribute to stabilising the European and international economy.
Last year's offer of NOK 55 billion for 2012 was double that of earlier annual loan offers to the IMF.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg has now announced a further increase, the newspaper reports.

2011 was the worst year ever in Norway

2011 was the worst year ever in Norway for the numbers of assault rapes, new police figures show. According to NRK, at least 109 were reported in the first 11 months of last year, with 53 actual or attempted attacks in Oslo. Whilst these figures show a doubling compared with 2010, the average number in other major Norwegian cities last year was three. Oslo police spokesperson Hanne Kristin Rohde tells the broadcaster, “We’ll perhaps never find out the real truth regarding what the increase is due to. It’s probably a combination of an actual rise in numbers and that more women dare to report them to police.”

Oslo is world’s most expensive city: survey

In a finding that will come as no surprise to anybody who has ever visited or lived in Oslo, the Norwegian capital has emerged as the most expensive shopping city in the world. Oslo comes out so far on top in a study of 32 countries worldwide that second-placed São Paulo seems almost ludicrously cheap by contrast in a survey carried out by price comparison service PriceRunner. The results are based on a comparison of the prices of 25 different products, including coffee, petrol, books and mobile phones.

“The products that are more expensive in Oslo than in a lot of other major cities are milk, Coca-Cola, bus tickets and Big Macs,” PriceRunner’s Martin Andersen told news agency NTB.

For example, the study shows that a 33cl can of Coca-Cola, costing 4 kroner ($0.66) in Bombay, will set the Oslo shopper back a cool 38 kroner ($6.40).

Oslo is a budget-wrecking 40 percent more expensive than the average in the multi-city survey. São Paulo, by contrast, is 20 percent pricier than Dublin, the city marking the average level.

Swedish capital Stockholm takes third place, followed by Sydney and Copenhagen.

“We think it’s important for travellers to know more than just the cost of a hotel room. The price of everyday items is also important,” said Andersen.

Consumers looking for good deals are best advised to hit the streets of Mumbai, which was 30 percent cheaper than the average. Bangkok also offers a wallet-friendly alternative and is 25 percent less expensive than the average.

For price-conscious travellers in Europe, Warsaw looks to be the ideal destination, with the Polish capital offering prices 20 below the average.

China says 'difficulties' with Norway

China said Friday its relations with Norway remained “difficult”, a year after it downgraded relations with Oslo in response to the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo. “The difficulties between China and Norway are because the Norwegian government made the wrong decision when the Nobel Peace Committee gave the award to Liu Xiaobo,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters. “We hope the Norwegian side will make practical efforts to resume the development of the bilateral relationship.”His remarks came as five Nobel Peace Prize winners launched a campaign to free Liu, saying they feared Beijing was silencing his family and friends and the world would forget his plight.

Liu, the first Chinese citizen to win the Peace Prize, was sentenced to 11 years behind bars in 2009 after authoring Charter 08, a manifesto signed by thousands seeking greater rights in the communist nation.

The decision to hand award him the Nobel infuriated Beijing, which suspended talks with Oslo on a free trade pact and ordered strict and time-consuming veterinary controls on Norwegian salmon.

The five members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, who pick the Peace Prize laureate, are appointed by Norway's parliament, but are independent of the government and the legislature.

Hong, who made the comments ahead of Saturday's ceremony for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, did not elaborate on what measures Norway could take to restore ties.
Asked about the alleged illegal treatment of Liu's wife, who is under house arrest and has not been seen in public for a year, Hong insisted her case was being handled in accordance with the law.

34 vessels in transit on Northern Sea Route

This year’s season on the Northern Sea Route was special in many ways. Not only was the route accessible about one month longer than usual, but is also had the highest number ever of vessels in transit from Murmansk to another country. According to operator of the nuclear icebreaker fleet Rosatomflot, 34 vessels have sailed the whole Northern Sea Route this year. The total cargo transported on the route is 820 000 tons. By comparison, in 2010 only four vessels used the route for transit to another country, and the total amount of cargo was 111 000 tons, Rosatomflot reports, according to RIA Novosti.

15 of the 34 vessels transported liquid cargo (682 000 tons), three carried bulk (110 000 tons), four refrigerator ships transported salmon (27 500), two vessels transported general cargo and ten vessels sailed in ballast.

2011 has been a years of records on the Northern Sea Route. The 162 000 dwt “Vladimir Tikhonov” became the first super tanker to sail the route, while the 75 600 dwt “Sanko Odyssey” became the largest ever bulk carrier to sail the NSR.

The tanker Belgium owned “Perseverance” opened the sailing season on June 29, and later became the first larger tanker to sail the NSR in the second half of November, As BarentsObserver reported. But it was not the last - the 5000 dwt tanker “Vestpils” is currently on its way to the port of Iturup on the Kuril Islands, after being escorted along the NSR by the nuclear-powered icebreaker “Rossiya”.

Bus with Russian trawler crew overturn in Norway, 1 person killed

A bus carrying 21 people, Russian trawler Boris Zaitsev's relief crew, overturned on Saturday near Norwegian Hammerfest, killing one person. "The incident happened at about 3.30 am Moscow time," Murmansk's emergency center official told RIA Novosti. "An executive officer called the Russian Emergency Ministry and said that a bus carrying a relief crew of 21 people, including 2 drivers, overturned.
He also said that one person died, while four people were in a bad condition."

The crew is now in hospital in Hammerfest, he added.

U.S. DHS Secretary Napolitano’s Upcoming Visit to Norway

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano will travel to Oslo, Norway, and Stockholm, Sweden, Nov. 14-15, to meet with international partners and discuss the Department’s ongoing collaboration with the two countries on cyber security and combating violent extremism and transnational crime. While in Oslo, Secretary Napolitano will meet with the Norweigian Minister of Justice and the Police Knut Storberget, Norwegian Police Security Service Director Janne Kristiansen, and U.S. Ambassador to Norway Barry White, and will offer condolences at the Oslo Cathedral for the victims of the 7/22 bombing and attack on Utoya Island. Later, Secretary Napolitano will join public and private sector partners at an event hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Norway—underscoring the Department’s continued commitment to working with the private sector and international partners to create a safe, secure and resilient cyberspace and secure the global supply chain. Secretary Napolitano will also tour the Norwegian Computer Emergency Response Team facility.

On Nov. 15, Secretary Napolitano will travel to Stockholm for bilateral meetings with Sweden’s Minister for Justice Beatrice Ask, Sweden’s State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Frank Belfrage, Sweden’s State Secretaries to the Prime Minister Gunnar Wieslander and Katarina Mascarenhas, Sweden’s State Secretary to the Minister of Defense Hakan Jevrell, and Director General for Swedish Civil Contingencies Helena Lindberg. While in Sweden, Secretary Napolitano will deliver remarks at an event hosted by the Swedish Institute of International Affairs—highlighting the importance of the Department’s collaboration with our international partners on cybersecurity initiatives and critical infrastructure protection. More details on the trip will be released once they are finalized.

Norway’s economic cooperation with Azerbaijan cannot affect the country’s position

Norway has long-term relations with Azerbaijan, Norwegian oil companies participate in the exploitation of Azerbaijani mines of the Caspian Sea. However, this cannot affect the position of the Norwegian government that regional conflict should be solved exceptionally in a peaceful way, Norway’s Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said at a joint press conference with Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian. Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said the government of his country believes that the Karabakh conflict should be solved exceptionally in a peaceful way within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group.

“We support any initiative related to the settlement of the Karabakh conflict suggested by the parties or the international community. We welcome the activity of the Minsk Group and the efforts of the international community towards reaching a peaceful solution,” he said.

The Foreign Ministers of the two countries signed an agreement on conduct of consultations and elimination of visa regime for persons with diplomatic passports.

The economic relations between Armenia and Norway are at an initial stage, Jonas Gahr Støre said, adding that the companies of his country are being encouraged to invest in Armenia, particularly in the field of energy.

The Foreign Ministers of the two countries attended the ceremony of launching a project of development of small hydroelectric power plants and participated in the events dedicated to the 150th anniversary of Fridtjof Nansen.

Norway-Burma Relations: Is Hydroelectric Power the Way to Go?

Norwegian Development Minister Erik Solheim has become the first Western government minister to meet with Burmese President Thein Sein, reported the Norwegian news agency NTB. According to NTB, President Thein Sein told Solheim that Burma would like to cooperate with Norway in a number of areas, and that foreign investments are sought in the areas of hydroelectric power, oil and gas, as well as tourism.
He is also reported to have told Solheim that he would like to cooperate with Norway in the areas of health, education and the environment.

In return, Solheim suggested to NTB that one possibility when international sanctions against Burma are removed could be future Norwegian investments in dam-building and hydropower production. Solheim needs to tread very carefully. The hydropower sector in Burma is fraught with pitfalls.

Since the 1990s, Norwegian authorities have urged Norwegian citizens and companies to refrain from trading or investing in Burma. Solheim’s call for a gradually removal of sanctions commensurate with positive developments in Burma is a signal that this recommendation will gradually end. It is essential that Norway pays close attention to the views of the democracy movement and that sanctions are not lifted until Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy (NLD) have stated clearly that the time has come to do so. When that time comes, however, hydroelectric power production is a contentious sector for international, and potentially Norwegian, investments.

Recently, President Thein Sein decided to halt the construction of the Myitsone Dam on the Irrawaddy River, ostensibly in response to widespread public and parliamentary opposition including from leading figures in politics and the arts, notably Suu Kyi. Whether the real reason behind his decision was an attempt to respond to such criticism or whether it had more to do with Burma’s dependence on China does not matter much.

China and other neighboring countries are heavy investors in Burma’s hydropower sector. As noted by a number of observers, including Suu Kyi, such investments come at great risk in Burma, where they contribute to human rights abuses, destruction of the environment and the cultural heritage of ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples and where they are also directly related to the armed conflicts in the country.

Indeed, the ethnically diverse populations of Burma have little experience of drawing tangible benefits from state-led and foreign-funded infrastructure development. As noted by Suu Kyi, the Myitsone Dam, which would have destroyed important cultural heritage for the Kachin people, stoked up feelings in the Kachin population that the central government did not care much about their feelings. Similar feelings of being ignored in important decisions once contributed to the rise of armed conflict in Kachin State, and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) warned earlier this year that civil war could return to the state if the project went ahead.

The Kachins are not alone in feeling neglected. Burma’s first major hydroelectric dam was built at Baluchaung in Karenni State in the 1950s with war reparations money from Japan. The electricity produced by this dam was sent to major cities such as Rangoon, Mandalay and Pegu in order to boost industrial development in central parts of the country at the time, rather than local development in this ethnic nationality state, already ravaged by civil war. In a similar way, income from many of the current projects in Shan and Karen areas will primarily return to Burmese government coffers and foreign investors, while much of the electricity will be exported back to China and other neighboring countries. Yet again, few resources are left for local development.

In its most recent survey of internal displacement in southeast Burma, the Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC) notes the paradox that democratic reform in the country coincides with an escalation in armed conflict in ethnic nationality areas along the borders and estimates that the ratio of internally displaced people over the past year is the highest in a decade. Violence has increased in ethnic border areas of Burma due to broken ceasefires and tensions over economic deals signed with neighboring countries for mega-development projects in ethnic areas, including the building of hydroelectric dams, with little transparency and consultations with local populations.

In October 2007, the Council on Ethics, which monitors the international investments of the Norwegian Government’s Pension Fund in order to decide whether they are consistent with the ethical guidelines of the fund, undertook an examination of international investment in natural resource extraction in Burma.

At the time, the Pension Fund was not involved with any Burmese company, but had interests in about 20 international companies with activities or potential activities in Burma, mainly in the sectors of mining, oil and gas, hydropower, telecommunications, banking, pharmacy and hotels. The companies came from countries such as South Korea, China, Thailand, Singapore and France.

The Council on Ethics also examined the hydroelectric sector. While the Council did not conclude decisively whether investments in this sector are compatible with the ethical guidelines of the fund, the Council stated at the time that there is a history of dam-building in Burma being associated with forced labor and forced relocations of populations.

The assessments of the Council on Ethics do not hinge on the overall political situation in Burma, but on whether there is a connection between the activities of international companies and human rights violations and whether there is an unacceptable risk that such violations will continue in the future. In other words, the beginning of a process of change in Burma should not in itself affect the concerns of the Ethical Council. Instead, the Council looks towards what happens on the ground, where companies are operating.

The Council of Ethics ought to complete its review of the hydropower sector in Burma in order to follow through with the initiative from 2007. Indeed, it would be strange if the Norwegian government would one day allow Norwegian investments in a sector that may not live up to the standards set by the ethical guidelines of the pension fund for international investments in Burma.

Forced relocation and forced labor do not contribute to sustainable development. Instead, they are causes of poverty. Under such circumstances, Norwegian investments would not contribute to alleviating poverty or to creating the pro-democracy and pro-human rights middle class that Solheim has previously argued is necessary for democracy in Burma.

Recent statements by representatives of the Norwegian government have left the impression that Norway is not sufficiently attentive to the severity of abuses taking place in ethnic nationality areas of Burma. It is difficult to understand why Solheim would be suggesting Norwegian investments in a sector that is associated with human rights abuses and widespread popular opposition in Burma. The hydroelectric sector is important for Norway. Solheim’s remarks now run the risk of giving the impression that Norway is not only insensitive to the plight of minorities and indigenous peoples in Burma, but is further seeking to advance its own interests. This would be a sad development for a country that has been known for more than twenty years as a strong friend of the Burmese people. Instead, the Norwegian government ought to enter a dialogue with the communities affected by natural resource extraction and dam building in Burma.

Burma is in need of international investments, but as the NLD has earlier emphasized, such investments need to contribute to job creation, bring technology to Burma, take into account environmental impacts and social responsibility and protect the rights of workers. Norwegian resources and Norwegian companies ought to contribute to progress in Burma that can be felt by the population at large—not to more abuses and more suffering.

The author is a PhD candidate at the Institute for Human Rights and Peace Studies, Mahidol University. The opinions expressed here are her own.

Norwegian top leaders exposed to espionage

At least ten Norwegian top leaders have been exposed to espionage attacks, according to the National Security Authority (NorCERT). It is feared that state secrets may end up in the wrong hands. Espionage attempts against Norwegian key personnel have become more sophisticated, according to NorCert (Norwegian Computer Emergency Response Team) which coordinates preventative work and responses against IT security breaches aimed at vital infrastructure in Norway. The number of cases handled by NorCERT have trebled over the past four years, according to its latest report.

- People are naive. Top leaders and key personnel are in the posession of sensitive information which is of interest to others, says NorCERT CEO Erlend Løkken to public broadcaster NRK.

EU support in Norway at historic low

Support for Norwegian EU membership has never been lower, with just 18.6 percent of voters in favour of joining the European Union, according to a fresh Sentio poll published by daily Nationen. 70.8 percent said they were opposed to membership, while 10.6 percent were undecided.

5 Million Norwegian-American Votes - Norway PM Admit He's Obama's Photo Prop

Norway's Prime Ministers informs reporters that he agreed to visit the White House for a photo opportunity that can be used for President Barack Obama's re-election campaign efforts that would help him win over the 5 million Norwegian-American vote, where they are particularly prevalent in swing Midwestern states.The Houston Chronicle reports that, “it has been eight years since a Norwegian prime minister was invited to the White House, and a big group of Norwegian press had gathered to cover the event. But as (Prime Minister) Stoltenberg said to Norwegian reporters after the show was over: ‘I think Obama spends more time on his 2012 campaign than on thinking of Norway.’”It’s the fate of many an international head of state: They get a coveted invitation to the White House and then, as they are photographed with the president, everybody asks the American president a question about a subject that has nothing to do with the visiting dignitary.

Last week, that was the fate of  Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, who met with President Obama in the Oval Office on the day Muammar Gadhafi was killed in Libya.

This time, however, Obama went out of his way to praise his NATO ally for its contributions to the alliance’s military mission.

“I’ve said this before but I want to repeat, Norway punches above its weight,” Obama said. “And their participation in the humanitarian mission, protecting civilians, the capacity of Norwegian pilots, their willingness to engage in some very critical missions there, made an enormous difference.”

President Obama invited the Norwegian prime minister to the White House in 2008, when he visited Oslo to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

“Michelle and I have incredibly fond memories of our visits to Oslo, and the extraordinary hospitality that the Norwegian people extended to us and our family,” Obama said after the meeting with Stoltenberg.

It has been eight years since a Norwegian prime minister was invited to the White House, and a big group of Norwegian press had gathered to cover the event. But as Stoltenberg said to Norwegian reporters after the show was over: “I think Obama spends more time on his 2012 campaign than on thinking of Norway.”

Insomnia linked to higher heart attack risk

As if you didn’t have enough to worry about during those sleepless nights, a Norwegian study yesterday said that people with insomnia face a 27 to 45 percent higher risk of heart attack. About one-third of people report having trouble sleeping and should see a doctor for help, urged the authors of the study published in Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association.
“Sleep problems are common and fairly easy to treat,” said Lars Erik Laugsand, lead researcher from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology Department of Public Health in Trondheim. “So it’s important that people are aware of this connection between insomnia and heart attack and talk to their doctor if they’re having symptoms.”

The data came from 52,610 Norwegian adults who answered a national survey about their insomnia symptoms in 1995-97.

Over the next 11 years, researchers identified 2,368 people who had their first heart attacks, via hospital records and Norway’s National Cause of Death Registry.

After adjusting for factors such as age, sex, marital status, education level, blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, weight, exercise, shift work, depression and anxiety, researchers found the highest boost in risk among the most troubled sleepers.

When they compared data from people who said they usually slept fine to people who said they had trouble falling asleep almost daily over the course of the last month, they saw a 45 percent higher risk in the sleepless group.

Those who said they could fall asleep but not stay asleep all night showed a 30 percent higher risk of heart attack than the group that slept well.

Similar links between insomnia and cardiovascular disease have been suggested in previous studies on US populations.

“It is becoming increasingly evident that insomnia is a significant modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease,” said Girardin Jean-Louis, an associate professor in the Department of Medicine at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, who was not involved in the study.

The body’s regulatory cycle for sleeping and wakefulness, known as circadian rhythms, could also play a role, according to Edward Fisher, professor of cardiovascular medicine at New York University.

Norwegian Foreign Minister earn more than Prime Minister

Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre has highest income in the parliament with his 41,786,363 NOK fortune. Tax lists for last year has been published and accordingly, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg earned 2,043,946 NOK taxable income last year and paid 927,636 NOK tax, while having no saving. The increase in his earning was 59.6 percent from 2009, when his income was 1,280,739 NOK. However, Stoltenberg has been supprassed by some ministers. Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre has become the richest person in the government. According to tax figures from 2010, the Minister had a fortune of 41,786,363 NOK.

The second richest of the government is fisheries minister is Lisbeth Berg-Hansen with a fortune of 20,688,433 million, followed by Defense Minister Grete Faremo having 1,791,305 NOK.

The most striking name on the bottom of the fortune list is Finance Minister Sigbjørn Johnsen. According to the tax list, Johnsen has only 152,728 NOK fortune, while earning 993,860 NOK a year.

Norway investigative panel visits island where massacre took place

The panel tasked with reviewing Norway's response to the twin attacks that claimed 77 lives in July on Tuesday visited the island where most of the victims died. 'It was very special to visit a place where so many young people died and where so many were so afraid,' attorney Alexandra Bech Gjorv who heads the July 22 Commission told news agency NTB. In all 69 people, mainly youth attending a youth camp organized by the Labour Party youth wing, were killed in the shooting at the Utoya island on July 22.

In connection with the Utoya visit, the commission also visited the local police station where emergency calls were placed when the shooting began.

A Norwegian man, Anders Behring Breivik, remains in custody. He has admitted to the shooting and setting off a car bomb in central Oslo that killed eight people.

The 10-member commission was appointed in August. It was to present its findings by August 2012.

The commission members have earlier visited the scene of the car bomb.

In a related development the commission Tuesday said it would publish a single comprehensive report and had opted not to present interim findings during its work.

The commission said it would focus on six areas. These include surveillance, threats and the role of the Norwegian police security service; access to weapons and dangerous chemicals; and how police responded to the attacks at the government headquarters and Utoya and how police cooperated with other authorities.

The police have said they would conduct their own review.

Obama, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg to meet at White House on Oct. 20

President Obama will meet later this month with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. The White House says Obama wants to personally thank Stoltenberg for Norway’s contribution to the NATO mission in Libya when they meet Oct. 20 in the Oval Office. He also wants to discuss a range of issues, including Afghanistan, Middle East peace, the Arctic, global health, climate change, the famine in Somalia and support for emerging North African democracies. Obama first met Stoltenberg in December 2009 when he flew to Norway to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

Earlier this year, Obama signed a condolence book at the Norwegian ambassador’s residence in Washington after an anti-Muslim extremist in Norway killed 69 people at a youth camp and detonated a car bomb in Oslo, killing eight others.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Yemen's former President will extradite the killer of Norwegian woman

Yemen's former President Ali Nasser Mohamed says he will extradite the killer of Norwegian woman, Martine Vik Magnussen, found murdered in London in March, 2008. Norwegian Newspaper Dagbladet revealed that high-level opposition in Yemen plans to extradite Mr Abdulhak to the UK if there is a power shift in the country.

The Norwegian national newspaper reported powerful forces have been involved in the Martine case and feel the case may be important for Western goodwill in the event of a regime change in Yemen.

In an exclusive interview with Dagbladet, Yemen's former president says, “We will take care of this matter and stop abusing the good relations between Yemeni and Norwegian people and the governments of Yemen and Norway.”

“Farouk should surrender to British authorities and we will take care of this matter.”

There have been conversations between the head of the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights, Kjell Magne Bondevik, and the Abdulhak family. The talks have not been as constructive as the foundation and Martine's family had hoped.

For the opposition, extraditing Farouk Abdulhak could provide a major diplomatic gain. The matter has been discussed at ministerial levels in both the UK and Norway. Dagbladet reports the opposition hopes to reap great goodwill if Farouk is returned to the UK.

Martine Vik Magnussen had been out on the town when she was killed. She studied in London. Farouk Abdulhak, son of one of Yemen’s wealthiest men, is a suspect in the case.

Manila to resume talks with rebel group soon

Peace negotiations with the the communist-led National Democratic Front (NDF) will resume in October or November in Norway, the head of the Philippine government’s peace panel said yesterday. Alexander Padilla expressed optimism that the three-year timetable that he had set for himself to finish negotiations with the NDF-Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army would be realised in 2013. “I think the talks would be finished within three years, from my assumption as chairman of the government peace panel in 2010 to 2013. Based on experience of other countries in the world, peace talks did not last three years if both parties are willing to have a peaceful resolution of the conflict,” he said.

Padilla said he would resign as government peace panel chairman if he fails to meet his three- year target to finish talks with the NDF-CPP-NPA.

“I’m still hoping that I could still meet that target. Maybe, by June 2012, we would be able to finish the talks and have an agreement for lasting peace in the country,” Padilla said.

Padilla said the main stumbling block to peace negotiations between the government and the NDF-CPP-NPA is the insistence of the NDF on having all its detained members, who are serving prison terms, released even if they are not covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantee (JASIG).

“On their (NDF-CPP-NPA) part, they viewed us as insincere negotiators,” Padilla said.

He and NDF peace panel spokesman Fidel Agcaoili have engaged in a war of words that affected the resumption of the peace talks, over the NDF’s insistence on the government releasing all JASIG-protected NDF members from prison.

Padilla said he remained civil with Agcaoili.

“I’m still civil with Agcaoili, but he is not. In my statement, I never used harsh words in addressing him. It was the first time that I was branded as ‘balasubas’ (deadbeat). I hope he (Agcaoili) will continue the talks, I hope it will continue for the sake of the Filipino people,” Padilla said.

He explained that the government had taken a confidence-building measure when it released five JASIG-protected members of NDF including Agcaoili and Luis Jalandoni.

He said the government could not release NDF members now in jail. “The NDF has two lists of JASIG-protected members. One includes Agcaoili and Jalandoni in the list, that we already released from detention. We have no obligation to release those unverified aliases.

“There is a verification process that we have to follow. We went to the safety deposit box of the NDF, but there were no photos.

“The only thing they produced was an encrypted disc. So, we cannot verify the identity of the people that they wanted to be released,” Padilla said.

Norway, Sweden make joint intelligence flight over Russia

Norway and Sweden have embarked on a joint inspection flight over Russia as part of the Open Skies Treaty. The inspections will take place on September 12-16 from a Swedish Saab 340B aircraft, ITAR-TASS reports. This is not the first Open Skies inspection over Russia this autumn. According to Voice of Russia, US air inspectors conducted aerial observations flights over Russia in late August, while Italy, Greece and Germany did the same earlier this month. Russia has built an aircraft specially equipped for international aerial inspections under the Open Skies Treaty, RIA Novosti reports. This is a Tupolev Tu-214ON aircraft with Russian-made equipment capable of conducting optic-electronic, radiolocation, radio- and radio-technical reconnaissance. The first plane of this kind was showcased for the first time at the MAKS-2011 International Air Show in the Moscow Region in August this year.

The Open Skies Treaty, signed in 1992 at the initiative of U.S. President George Bush Sr., established a regime of unarmed aerial observation flights over the territories of its 34 member states to promote openness and transparency of military forces and activities.

The Open Skies regime covers the territory over which the State Party exercises sovereignty, including land, islands, and internal and territorial waters. The treaty specifies that the entire territory of a State Party is open to observation. Observation flights may only be restricted for reasons of flight safety; not for reasons of national security. Imagery collected from Open Skies missions is available to any State Party upon request.

Tawke runs after Kurdistan shutdown

Production from Norwegian oil company DNO International’s Tawke field in Iraqi Kurdistan is back to around 50,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day after a pipeline malfunction on Sunday.  A spokesman for DNO said the company had experienced some downtime since it had restarted production in February. "There was a stoppage which lasted for about 26 hours, but now we are back again at full production," the spokesman told Reuters.
Kurdistan halted oil exports on Sunday, with the regional government blaming technical problems and “malpractice”, not a policy move, for the decision.

Iraqi oil minister Abdul-Kareem Luaibi said at the time that this would result in big losses for the nation’s economy.

Reuters reported the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) had said Iraq's North Oil Company had "serious technical difficulties" with its main export pipeline, which carries about 100,000 barrels of crude per day, on Sunday. It also labelled "false" reports that exports had been deliberately suspended.

KRG said technical problems and "serious operating malpractice" at Iraq's North Oil Company export system had "resulted in the automatic shutdown of the main oil export of the region.”

"All false assumptions and accusations of export suspension should be totally discarded," the KRG said in a statement.

"The KRG remains committed to its interim agreement with the federal government of Iraq for exports of oil from Kurdistan's fields until a permanent solution is reached based on the Constitution."

Norway Suspends Aid to Afghanistan

Norway has frozen $55 million in aid to Afghanistan until the scandal surrounding the collapse of corruption-ridden Kabul Bank is resolved. Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide said Tuesday that a "lack of good governance" on the part of Afghan authorities is the primary reason for the aid suspension. Eide made his comments to Norwegian daily newspaper Dagens Naeringsliv.
The International Monetary Fund and Afghan government are currently in a dispute over how to resolve the crisis surrounding Kabul Bank, Afghanistan's biggest private lender. The bank is on the verge of bankruptcy after nearly collapsing last year over of mismanagement, cronyism, and questionable lending.

Several high-profile bank officials, including the brother of Afghan president Hamid Karzai, have been accused of taking out more than $900 million in loans that were never repaid.

The IMF has also said it will withhold financial aid to Afghanistan until the issue is resolved.

Canadian psychology prof says there is basis for 9/11 conspiracy theories

People who suspect a conspiracy was at work in the 9/11 terror attacks, or in the way the U.S. government responded to it, are not crazy, says one Canadian psychology professor working in Norway. Floyd Rudmin, with the University of Tromso, says those labelled "conspiracy theorists" with regard to 9/11, the John F. Kennedy assassination or any number of other dramatic events have good reason to doubt the explanations given to the public by authorities. "Some people say there are no conspiracies and that all conspiracy theories are nonsense," he says. "That simply is not true. Humans do conspire."

Rudmin says some of the elements that create conditions for conspiracy theories to emerge include improbable events occurring that have political implications, coinciding with indications that officials are not being completely forthcoming about what they know.

He says 9/11 contains all these ingredients.

"It never happened in history that a steel-framed building fell down without demolition," Rudmin says. "And we've had buildings in war zones.

"So if you say the probability of one (building) collapsing is rare, but now you've got three at once, this is like three separatists getting that bacteria infection," he says, recalling how when Lucien Bouchard lost a leg to flesh-eating disease, it did not spark conspiracy theories among Quebec sovereignists. He says if it also happened to Jacques Parizeau and Gilles Duceppe, it might have.

Things about the subsequent 9/11 investigation and information released — such the lack of investigation into the collapse of Building 7, the smallest of the World Trade towers that fell, and not releasing video of the plane that crashed into the Pentagon — helped fuel the suspicions surrounding these unusual happenings, Rudmin says.

Rudmin notes that many of the organizations of people who question what happened on Sept. 11, 2001, are experts in architecture, aviation and military. "These are not wackos. These are professional people."

Rudmin says he has no specific explanations for how 9/11 happened, but he does not believe the official version of events.

China’s doors shut to Statoil after Nobel award

Norwegian oil firm Statoil ASA remains unable to access China’s rich shale gas resources nearly a year after the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, a top company executive said. Last year Statoil was in talks with Chinese oil firms to explore for unconventional gas and was hopeful it could announce a deal by the end of 2010. That announcement never came and it is unclear whether it ever will.
The awarding of the prize by the Norwegian Nobel Committee to Liu, serving an 11-year sentence for subversion, infuriated Beijing as the rising Asian power becomes more assertive on the world stage.

“We haven’t managed to make any inroads in China,” Tim Dodson, Statoil’s head of exploration, said.

“There is a reluctance to engage (by) the Chinese ... Obviously what has happened around the Nobel Peace Prize had its impact.”

Dodson, who said Statoil had looked at China’s potential offshore resources but found they were not as interesting as those onshore, suggested Chinese authorities may be reluctant to open their natural resources to other foreign firms too.

“It is genuinely difficult to get any traction in China. You have to wonder whether it is protectionism,” he said.

Statoil aims to grow its oil and gas output by a third to 2.5 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (boed) by 2020.

This year it expects to spend some $3 billion in exploration, around half in Norway and half abroad, drilling some 40 to 50 exploration wells worldwide.

“Going forward you can expect a similar activity level and a similar spending level,” said Dodson.

Following two recent major exploration deals in Angola and Kazakhstan, Dodson said he was working on at least three other material opportunities.

“I hope that I can close at least two of those before year-end,” he said.

Dodson’s priority is to focus exploration activity on its home base in Norway, expand in some key areas abroad where it is present — such as the Gulf of Mexico, offshore Canada and Brazil — and access unexplored areas like the Arctic.

In the Gulf of Mexico, the scene last year of the largest oil spill in US history, Statoil has two rigs exploring, the second one beginning work last Wednesday.

“Ideally we would like to have a higher share of high-impact opportunities in our portfolio,” the English-born executive said.

“We can afford to take somewhat more risks given our size (and) as long as we have a balanced portfolio ... The challenge is to get access to those opportunities because it is extremely competitive.”

Regarding Russia’s Arctic, where Statoil has no exploration activity but has a share in the much-delayed giant Shtokman gas project with Total and Gazprom, Dodson was hopeful Statoil could get access to new acreage via partnerships with Russian firms that have been getting exploration licenses in recent months.

Dodson said he expected more partnership deals as Russian oil firms seek the technical expertise to develop offshore reserves in harsh conditions.

Statoil recently made two major discoveries off Norway, Aldous Major South in the North Sea and Skrugard in the Barents Sea, breathing new life into a region where oil majors have largely stopped looking for new discoveries.

Statoil aims to continue drilling near these areas to find if there is more oil and gas. Towards the end of the year, it will drill on Havis, a prospect near Skrugard that has a high probability of being a significant discovery, said Dodson, and it will drill another well at Skrugard to further appraise its size.

“We will drill other wells in the Barents Sea (after that),” Dodson said. “There is potential for two to three more wells.”

In the North Sea, the firm will drill two more wells near major discovery Aldous Major South once it is done with the drilling on a nearby prospect called Aldous Major North, which began last week. One of those two extra wells could come “quickly,” Dodson said, declining to give a timeline.

In the so-called pre-salt blocks off Angola, where Statoil has two concessions to operate and three to participate in and where Dodson believes billion-barrels discoveries can be made, Statoil expects to drill its first exploration wells within two years of signing a production-sharing agreement eyed for completion in September.

(REUTERS)

Breivik illegally isolated by Court in Norway

The self-described perpetrator of Norway's deadly bombing and shooting rampage was ordered held in solitary confinement last month after calmly telling that two other cells of collaborators stood ready to join his murderous campaign. Anders Behring Breivik has been held incommunicado for two weeks in violation of the law. Oslo City Court acknowledges that it has made a mistake when Breivik detained for eight weeks, with four weeks of isolation.

It has been shown that at the first detention hearing may be decided on a maximum of two weeks' isolation. The decision can then be extended for four weeks at a new meeting. This according to a practice from 2005.

Court denies request for 'disturbing' attire

A judge on Wednesday closed the court for the next appearance of Anders Behring Breivik, who has confessed to Norway's July 22 attacks, and denied his request to wear a tailcoat as "disturbing."

After having requested in vain to be allowed to wear a "uniform" to his first court appearance in July, he had asked to dress in a kind of tailcoat, likely the freemason uniform he can be seen posing in on one of the photographs he posted online before the attacks.

His lawyer, Geir Lippestad, had explained that Behring Breivik thus wished to show his respect for the judicial process, pointing out that "the tailcoat is one of the most formal attires worn by men".

"In light of the extreme seriousness of the case, such an attire could be disturbing, insulting and provocative," the judge said, stressing that "ordinary, proper clothing is enough to show that he takes the judicial process seriously."

Went on to add 20 more victims to grisly total

Anders Breivik called police in the middle of his bloody rampage to surrender after phoning police and telling them 'mission accomplished'.

The 32-year-old - spoke to a control worker.

The call ended - inexplicably, though Breivik claims he was ignored - and he was left expecting a call back.

However, officers couldn't get in touch with him again, it is claimed.

He went on to kill another 20 people on the island of Utoya after attempting to hand himself in.

The shock new claims came after he was taken back to the scene of the massacre - in a bulletproof vest for his own protection - as police staged a chilling reconstruction.

His lawyer Geir Lippe told the Sun: 'He wanted to capitulate. If he had received confirmation that his message was understood, he would have stopped his mission.'
His lawyer has said he has admitted to the terror attacks, but denies criminal guilt because he believes the massacre was necessary to save Norway and Europe from Muslims and punish politicians who have embraced multiculturalism.

32 Victims of Political Violence in Norway Buried

A teenage girl and an up-and-coming young politician were among the 32 Political Victims buried yesterday in Norway, two weeks after twin terrorist attacks hit the norway. Sharidyn Svebakk-Bohn, 14, was likely the youngest of the 69 killed in a shooting at a Labour party Political youth camp organised by the Labour Party Government on the island of Utoeya. The July 22 shooting was preceded by a car bomb in central Oslo that killed eight people. Former prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland was among the speakers at Svebakk-Bohn’s funeral in Drammen, near Oslo. The former Labour Party leader had adressed youths at Utoya just hours before the shooting.

Funerals were held in 15 of Norway’s 19 counties yesterday.

Tore Eikeland, a 21-year-old student active in the Labour Party’s youth wing, was seen as a gifted young politician on track for a stellar career, Labour Party secretary-general Raymond Johansen said at Eikeland’s funeral in Osteroy, western Norway.

A memorial service was also held Friday for Monica Bosei, 45, who for 20 years worked at the island of Utoeya, the scene of the rampage.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg attended the service for her near Utoeya and said the Labour Party had planned to honour “mother Utoya” this autumn.

Police interview 200 witnesses over attacks

Police have interviewed about 200 witnesses during the investigation into the July 22 attacks in Norway that claimed 77 lives, a prosecutor said Monday. Electronic devices including mobile phones, PCs and cameras used by people who attended a Labour Party youth camp on the island of Utoya - where 69 people died in the day's shooting spree - were considered as evidence, prosecutor Pal-Fredrik Hjort Kraby said. Police planned Tuesday to start a clean-up on Utoya and begin to return personal belongings to survivors and next of kin.

Electronic devices were exempt since they could contain images or other information investigators hope could help track the movements of the Norwegian man suspected of the killings.

'It might also be possible to establish if he had previously been on the island to scout it out,' Kraby told a news conference.

Anders Behring Breivik was last week remanded in custody on suspicion of the shooting spree, which was preceded by a car bomb in Oslo that killed eight people.

A special group was analysing Breivik's computers and internet activities, and police were also looking at where he travelled, cars he used and where he lived, Kraby said.

Kraby said that he and other investigators had visited Utoya on Friday, the same day Breivik was brought to police headquarters to go over a transcript of the first interview he made after his arrest.

Breivik was this week - Kraby declined to say when - due to be questioned again. Police then planned to confront him with information they had gathered since the attacks.

A priority was still to 'find out if there were accomplices or other cells' and if he acted alone as he has claimed, Kraby said.

Psychiatrists commissioned to assess Breivik were likely to begin their work earliest at the end of the week, Kraby said.

Bomb experts Monday said the July 22 car bomb in central Oslo that claimed eight lives was likely more powerful than initially estimated.

Initial estimates said the bomb contained 500 kilos of explosives but after further studying the blast damage, bomb expert Per Nergaard said it could have contained almost 1,000 kilos, the Dagsavisen daily reported.

An underground passage at the 17-storey building that housed the prime minister's offices and Justice Ministry likely reduced the effect of the bomb, Nergaard said, saying the death toll of eight was 'uniquely low' considering the bomb's size.

Another factor believed to have contributed to a lower death toll was that many government employees were away due to the summer holiday period, Dagsavisen said.

The newspaper said that 190 people - as compared to the usual number of about 1,600 - were at work in the eight government buildings and ministries nearest the car bomb.

Breivik's mother has been interviewed by police and was initially in shock.

She has not wished to contact Breivik and he has not made any request to see her, Kraby said according to Swedish daily Expressen.

Mass killers Anders Breivik willing to cooperate with police

Norwegian mass killer Anders Breivik is cooperating with interrogators, police said on Saturday, but they declined to confirm media reports he had plans to attack the royal palace and Labour Party headquarters. Describing himself as an anti-Islam crusader, Breivik has confessed to the July 22 bombing in Oslo and shooting spree on a nearby island that together killed 77 people, many of them teenagers, in the worst attack in Norway since World War Two. Police said Breivik was interrogated for 10 hours on Friday, verifying details from previous questioning and answering new questions.

"He explains himself well and is more than willing to talk about the events," police attorney Paal-Fredrik Hjort Kraby told a news conference on Saturday.

Newspaper Verdens Gang reported that Breivik had the palace and Labour headquarters on his hit list, in addition to the strikes he carried out on the government and Labour''s political youth camp at Utoeya, some 45 km (28 miles) from Oslo.

"We can''t comment on that. We''ve said in general that he has said he was interested in other targets that would be of natural interest to a terrorist," Kraby said.

In a 1,500 page manifesto, published online just before the attacks, Breivik explained that the fertiliser bomb he made was both complex and time-consuming to create.

The Norwegian Police Security Service has said Breivik probably acted alone, doubting his statements that he was a member of a wider group of Knights Templar with two more units in Norway and several abroad.

On Friday, Norway held the two first funerals, both attended by members of the government, and memorial ceremonies in churches, mosques and non-religious gatherings around the small country of just under five million people.

Norway’s twin terror ‘underwent paramilitary training in Belarus’

Norway’s twin terror suspect Anders Behring Breivik trained at a secret paramilitary field camp in Belarus earlier this year, a Belarusian opposition politician said on Thursday, citing security sources. “Breivik visited Belarus several times. This spring, as part of his preparations for his twin attacks, he visited Minsk, where he underwent training at a secret paramilitary field camp,” Mikhail Reshetnikov, the head of the opposition Belarusian Party of Patriots, told the Gazeta.ru online newspaper. He cited sources within Belarus’s “security organs.”

Breivik, 32, has admitted to carrying out a bombing in Oslo, which killed eight, and a mass shooting at a Labor Party youth camp on the nearby island of Utoya, which left 68 dead. He has not accepted criminal responsibility, however, saying his actions were "atrocious but necessary" measures intended to "save Norway and Western Europe" from a "Muslim takeover."

Breivik mentioned in his online manifesto visiting Belarus to study the effects of fallout from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. The former Soviet republic’s state border agency has confirmed he was in Belarus from March 4 to March 11, 2005.

Reshetnikov also claimed Breivik had participated in “sabotage-terrorism drills” under a former Belarusian special service officer and that he had used a fake passport to enter Belarus.

“His codename in Belarus’s KGB was Viking,” he added. “Rumors say he also had a girlfriend in Belarus.”

“The theory that Belarus’ special forces were involved in training Anders Breivik seems, of course, far-fetched,” political expert Viktor Demidov was quoted by Gazeta.ru as saying.

“On the other hand, [Belarusian] President Alexander Lukashenko’s friendship with Muammar Gaddafi is no secret - neither is his fondness for Adolf Hitler.”

Norway is taking part in NATO operations in Libya and Gaddafi has threatened attacks against Europe.

Norway vows to bolsters police, review security

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday that Oslo will review and assess the country's security measures after the current period of national grieving for the 76 victims of bomb and gun attacks. "After the investigation and after we have in a way gone through the period in which we are now comforting those who have lost loved ones, there will be a time for going through all the experiences we have from the operation," Stoltenberg told a press conference.
"That will be part of what we are going to go through," he said. When asked whether a review and assessment of security arrangements would be ordered, he added: "That will come in time afterwards."

Norway's security services have come under fire for the time it took armed officers to reach the island scene of a gun rampage that killed 68 at a youth summer camp of Stoltenberg's Labour Party on Friday, hours after a downtown bombing of government offices claimed eight lives.

Experts have said the car bomb acted as a decoy, but that the government was insufficiently prepared for the gun attack perpetrated by self-confessed far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik.

It was not clear how far Stoltenberg was contemplating root-and-branch change to the country's security preparations or general level of alert.

He said: "We will not be intimidated or threatened by these attacks. The aim of such attacks is to spread fear and panic. We will not let that happen. We must stand firm in defending our values."

Stoltenberg said the immediate focus for the authorities remained on the victims.

"We have used all available resources in the search-and-rescue operation," he said referring to patrols in the waters around Utoeya island, and checks on badly-damaged government buildings in Oslo.

"This week our priority has been to care for the wounded and those who lost friends and family members and others they loved," the premier underlined, praising "strong sympathy from all Norwegians."

Czech extremists backs ideas of Breivik

Czech extremists have thanked Norwegian attacker Anders Behring Breivik who has claimed responsibility for the Friday massacres in Oslo and the nearby Utoeya island that cost 76 lives, on the White Media web page, server Lidovky.cz reports. The Aktualne.cz server writes that the police are analysing the article glamorising the assassin. The article called Defence of Anders Breivik says his act is more than understandable and that it has inspired many other people fighting multiculturalism.

Lidovky.cz writes that the police do not yet know the identity of the article´s author, but that they have been monitoring the extremists´ web pages for a long time.

"Approving of a criminal act is naturally punishable," the server quotes Karel Kucharik, head of the group for uncovering information crime, told the server.

"We know about the article. Our information crime department is now analysing it in detail," police presidium spokeswoman Pavla Kopecka told Aktulane.cz.

Terrorism expert Marian Brzybohaty said the author committed several criminal acts. He mentioned the criminal code articles on support and promotion of movements aimed to suppress the rights and freedoms of man, expression of sympathy for a movement, and denying, challenging, approving of and justifying a genocide.

The rightist extremist Breivik, 32, has confessed to blasting a bomb in the government neighbourhood in Oslo that claimed eight lives and to the subsequent shooting dead of 68 people on Utoyea, mainly participants in a Social Democrat youth camp.

He claims he wanted to save Europe from ""Muslim colonisation." This has been the biggest bloodshed in Norway since World War Two.

Italy MEP backs ideas of Breivik

An Italian MEP has described the ideas of Norway's self-confessed mass killer, Anders Behring Breivik, as "good" and in some cases "excellent". Mario Borghezio, who belongs to the Northern League party, condemned Mr Breivik's violence, but backed his stance against Islam. The Northern League is a partner in PM Silvio Berlusconi's government. Mr Borghezio's comments in a radio interview sparked outrage, with opposition calls for the MEP to resign.

Mr Breivik's justification for killing 76 people was that he wanted to inflict maximum damage on Norway's governing Labour Party because of its failure to clamp down on immigration.

"Some of the ideas he expressed are good, barring the violence. Some of them are great," Mario Borghezio told Il Sole-24 Ore radio station.

He agreed with Mr Breivik's "opposition to Islam and his explicit accusation that Europe has surrendered before putting up a fight against its Islamicisation".

The Northern League is an avowedly anti-immigration, regionalist Italian political party, key to the governing coalition, and known for its anti-immigrant, anti-Islamic rhetoric.

10,000 neo-fascist groups behind Norwegian right wing extremist?

The Norwegian right wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik, who killed at least 76 people in two terrorist attacks Jul. 22 Oslo and Utoya, is a member of a network of more than 10,000 neo-fascist groups spread across North America and Western and Northern Europe. Common to this informal North Atlantic neo-fascist coalition is the hatred of Islam, the radical opposition to immigration and to multicultural society, the belief in white racial supremacy and in Christian fundamentalism, the unconditional support of Israel, sympathies for the U.S. ‘Tea Party’ movement, and contempt for democratic institutions.

Sympathetic to these neo-fascist groups are extreme right wing parties functioning in practically all European countries, from the Norwegian Progress Party, the Sweden Democrats, the True Fins, and the Danish People’s Party, to the French Front National (FN), and the Italian Lega Nord. The perpetrator of the massacre on Jul. 22 was a long-standing member of the Norwegian Progress Party.

Further evidence of the pervasiveness of extremist right wing views is the fact that 14 of the 27 countries represented in the European Parliament have at least one MP who defends xenophobic views and calls for stern anti-immigration policies.

While some of the parties - such as the FN in France, the Freedom Party in Austria, and the Lega Nord in Italy - have a relative long history, most of them were founded in the late 1990s and early 2000s, in reaction to the growing multiethnic character of European communities and to immigration, especially of Muslims.

Leaders of all these parties and groups, including the Norwegian Progress Party, are trying to disassociate themselves from the mass murders in Oslo and on Utoya Island.

Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch Freedom Party, who has reached global notoriety thanks to his speeches against Islam, and who recently faced legal proceedings under charges of instigating racism and for having called Mohamed "a child abuser", described Behring Breivik as "a psychic ill, violent man". Marine Le Pen, presidential candidate of the French FN, also called the Norwegian killer "a crazy guy".

Siv Jensen, head of the Norwegian Progress Party, called Behring’s deed "abhorrent" and said her party was "an innocent victim" of the tragedy.

All these parties have become popular in their respective countries precisely for attacking migration policies, and for expressing openly racist views. Typical of these parties is the Swedish Democrats’ repeated description of Sinti and Roma and other minorities as "parasites"; and immigration, multiculturalism, and Islam as "Europe’s worst dangers".

Meanwhile, blogs and Internet forums expressing extreme right wing views emerged practically simultaneously with the popularisation of the Internet, and multiplied and became stronger after the terror attacks against New York and Washington in Sep. 2001.

"Right wing extremists were among the first political groups to use the new media," said Rick Eaton, researcher for the Simon Wiesenthal Centre. "The first neo-Nazi website ‘Stormfront’ appeared 1995, that is shortly after the emergence of the world wide web. By now, there are more than 10,000 forums and blogs on the Internet in the U.S."

Contrary to the established parties, the moderators of extremist right wing forums and blogs adopted an ambiguous position towards Behring Breivik. The German forum Politically Incorrect (PI), which describes itself as "a bastion against Islam", endorsed Behring’s 1,500-page strong manifesto saying, "Most of what he writes could be published in this forum".

Elsewhere, though, PI calls Behring "a psychopath" and his crime "an abhorrent, inhuman deed".

At the same time, some of the authors who publish their views in such forums tried to trivialise the mass murder in Oslo and Utoya. "While some 17,000 terror attacks by Islamist groups have killed more than one million people, one single Christian terror attack just killed 90," one author wrote in another blog. The author also called the mass murder of Oslo and Utoya "the beginning of the civil war against Islam in Europe".

Such forums "set the blaze for [racist] violence, even though they do not explicitly call for terror acts," said political scientist Sabine Schiffer who is a researcher on anti-Islamic movements and media and the director of the German Institute for Media Responsibility. "The repetition of phrases such as ‘when will we [Europeans] start to defend ourselves’, or ‘let’s do something against Islam in Europe’," constitute an implicit appeal to terror, she said.

Schiffer is joining political leaders in calling for a redefinition of freedom of expression, to "set a clear line between legitimate criticism and commentary and racial and religious hatred," she said.

But some conservative politicians are using the mass murder in Oslo and Utoya to repeat past calls to censor Internet. "The mass killings in Norway were born in the Internet," said Hans Peter Uhl, who is in charge of home security for the conservative Christian Social Union party. "Although Behring appears to be a lonely killer, he had numerous contacts with likeminded people through the Internet."

"What should the state do in such cases, when there is a clear violation of laws that criminalise sedition and racial hatred," Uhl asked. "Should we be perplexed in the face of such crimes? No, we must better control the Internet," he said.

Eaton warned that the attacks in Oslo and Utoya "surely were not the last acts of terror in the name of the armed fight against Islam".

Norway police were "fantastic": justice minister, Arrived at hour and a half after firing began.....

Norway's justice minister on Tuesday hailed "fantastic" police work after Anders Behring Breivik killed at least 76 people, setting aside criticisms that police had reacted too slowly to a shooting massacre. Although Breivik has spoken of "two more cells," police believe he probably acted alone in Friday's bombing and shooting attacks, which have united Norwegians in revulsion. "It is very important that we have an open and critical approach...but there is a time for everything," Knut Storberget said after talks with Oslo's police chief, referring to questions, mostly in the media, about the police response time.

An armed SWAT team took more than an hour to reach Utoeya island, where Breivik was coolly shooting terrified youngsters at a ruling Labour Party youth camp. He killed 68 there and eight in an earlier bombing of Oslo's government district.

Police are likely to release the names of the victims on Tuesday, a day after they revised the death toll down to 76 from 93, the NTB news agency said.

Storberget also denied police had ignored threats posed by right-wing zealots in Norway. "I reject suggestions that we have not had the far-right under the microscope," he said.

Many Norwegians seem to agree the police do not deserve opprobrium for their response. At a march of more than 100,000 in Oslo on Monday night, people applauded rescue workers.

SCEPTICISM ABOUT ACCOMPLICES

Breivik, 32, told a judge at his custody hearing on Monday that two other cells in his "organization" existed.

However, a source close to the investigation said: "We feel that the accused has fairly low credibility when it comes to this claim but none of us dare to be completely dismissive about it either."

Researchers also doubt Breivik's claim that he is part of a wider far-right network of anti-Islam "crusaders," seeing it as bragging by a psychopathic fantasist who has written that exaggeration is a way to sow confusion among investigators.

Norway has felt some relief that Breivik seems to have acted alone in trying to save Europe from "cultural Marxism" and a "Muslim invasion" by striking at the ruling Labour Party.

The Aftenposten daily said Breivik's interrogation was moving slowly, with the confessed killer silent on his claims about sleeper cells or other potential collaborators.

Prosecutors will consider whether Breivik's acts fall under a 2008 law on crimes against humanity, said Staale Eskeland, professor of criminal law at Oslo University.

"To kill a group of civilians systematically is the basic criteria" for charges of crimes against humanity, Eskeland said, adding that the maximum penalty for this offence was 30 years in jail, rather than 21 years under the anti-terrorism law.

In both cases the sentence can be extended for up to five years at a time if there is risk of repeat offences.

So far Breivik has been charged with "destabilizing or destroying basic functions of society" and "creating serious fear in the population." Police attorney Christian Hatlo has said Breivik expects to spend the rest of his life in jail.

More than 100,000 Norwegians rallied in Oslo on Monday night, many carrying white and red roses, to mourn the dead and to show unity after July 22. Tens of thousands of others rallied in other cities from Tromsoe to Bergen.

In signs that police are skeptical that Breivik was part of a wider network, border controls imposed on July 22 were lifted late on Monday. Norway has not asked other countries to launch probes, nor has it raised the threat level for terrorism.

Even the final entry in Breivik's own 1,500 page manifesto says on July 22: "The old saying: 'if you want something done, then do it yourself' is as relevant now as it was then."

"Intuitively, it feels like he is alone when you read the document. It's like he's lost in this made-up world and can't distinguish between fantasy and reality," said Magnus Ranstorp, Research Director at the Center for Asymmetric Threat Studies at the Swedish National Defense College.

"They (mass killers) are usually alone," he said.

Police defended themselves from suggestions that some alarm bells should have rung about Breivik. The head of the PST security police even said he would have slipped through the net in former East Germany with its feared Stasi police.

PST says Breivik's name appeared only once, on a list of 50-60 Norwegians sent by Interpol after he paid 120 crowns ($22.16) to a Polish company that sold chemicals and was on a watch list. They found no reason to react.

STASI GERMANY

"I don't think even Stasi Germany could have uncovered this person," PST chief Janne Kristiansen told the VG newspaper's online edition, adding he was "the incarnation of evil."

Breivik admits the attacks, but denies criminal responsibility. Even his father is horrified.

"In my darkest moments, I think that rather than killing all those people, he should have taken his own life," Breivik's father told Norwegian independent TV2 in France.

He said his son, with whom he has had no contact since he was a teenager, must be mentally ill.

Other researchers say that he shares traits with past mass murderers.

"He has no empathy, he is indifferent to the people he kills, he has no conscience and no remorse," said Ragnhild Bjoernebekk, a researcher at Norway's police school.

"Evil can kill a person but never conquer a people," Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said at Monday evening's rally, probably the biggest in the nation of 4.8 million since the end of World War Two.

"Our fathers and mothers promised 'never again April 9'. We promise 'never again July 22'," he said. Nazi Germany invaded Norway on April 10, 1940 and occupied it for five years.

Many Norwegians have expressed relief that Breivik seems to have been a home-grown loner, rather than, for instance, an al Qaeda militant. Many compare him to Timothy McVeigh who killed 168 people with a truck bomb in Oklahoma City in 1995.

"If this was done by a foreigner it would have been very difficult," said Raj Pereet Singh, a Norwegian whose parents immigrated.

(Reuters - With reporting by Walter Gibbs, Anna Ringstrom, Henrik Stoelen, Wojciech Moskwa, Terje Solsvik, Patrick Lannin, Johan Ahlander, John Acher, Jon Hemming, Mohammed Abbas, Victoria Klesty and Ole Petter Skonnord; Writing by Alistair Lyon; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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