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AMBASSADOR

‘Obama must apologise for envoy gaffe’

Norway's Progress Party has demanded a personal apology from US President Barack Obama after his nomination for Norway's new ambassador described its members as "fringe elements" who "spew out their hatred" (PLUS VIDEO).

'Obama must apologise for envoy gaffe'
George Tsunis speaking to the US senate on Tuesday. Source: Screengrab
"I think this is unacceptable and a provocation," Jan Arild Ellingsen, the party's justice spokesman, told Norway's TV2 television channel. "I expect the US president to apologize to both Norway and the Progress Party". 
 
George Tsunis, a Greek-American property millionaire who was one of Obama's biggest individual campaign donors, displayed only the scantiest knowledge of Norway at a senate hearing this week ahead of his appointment, describing the Progress Party, which has seven ministers in the government, as if it were a fringe far-right group. 
 
He then referred to the country's "president", apparently under the impression that the country is a republic rather than a constitutional monarchy. 
 
After Norway's right-wing parties won power last September, the Progress Party, some of whose politicians use anti-immigrant rhetoric which would class them as far-right in other countries, complained at the way the international media described them.
 
They were particularly incensed at descriptions of them as the "Breivik Party", despite the fact that the country's far-right mass murderer was once an avid member. 
 
Progress Party leaders pushed Norway's diplomats to persuade press and politicians abroad that the party is not extremist, and the party held a conference for international press intending to convince them that it is not an "anti-immigrant" or "anti-Islamic party". 
 
"What we have here is a 'hotel concierge' who has not done his job in advance," Ellingsen added, mocking Tsunis for Chartwell Hotels, the hotel management company which made his fortune. 
 
Tsunis and his wife were among the largest individual donors to Obama's 2012 campaign. After registering as a Democrat in November 2009, Tsunis raised $988,550 for Obama’s 2012 campaign, and donated $300,000 to Democratic super PACs and $75,800 to the Obama Victory Fund, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. 
 
Tsunis became a Democrat in November 2009, after giving $50,000 to Republican Sen. John McCain’s 2008 campaign.

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DRUGS

Norway politician charged for drugs and child abuse images

A former politician from Norway’s anti-immigration Progress Party has been charged with possession of illegal drugs and images of child abuse.

Norway politician charged for drugs and child abuse images
Police found 19 grams of MDMA. Photo: Gorm Kallestad / NTB scanpix
The man, who is in his 40s, previously held positions in the party at both the national and local level, but stepped down after he was arrested in 2016. 
 
The politician’s defence lawyer Gunhild Lærum told Norwegian broadcaster NRK that she did not yet have a clear response from her client to the charge over the child abuse images. 
 
“We have not yet been able to look through this together,” she said. “He is slightly unsure if this is something he has downloaded consciously and willingly.” 
 
She said the identities of the children in the pictures were “completely unknown”. 
 
The man has been held in pre-trial detention for nearly two years, as police carried out a long-drawn out investigation after finding large quantities of drugs in his house in May 2016. 
 
“We are both pleased at least that something has finally happened in the case,“ Lærum said. 
 
When the police searched the man’s house in May 2016, they found 90 grams of amphetamine, 16 grams of cocaine, 19 grams of MDMA, 274 ml of GHB, 22 tablets containing clonazepam, four tablets containing diazepam, five tablets containing MDMA and two tablets containing mCPP. 
 
The man has already pleaded guilty to the drugs charges. 
 
“He has acknowledged that he had a problem and he is glad that it has been discovered and that he has managed to get over it. He has been helped for a long, long period now.” 
 
The case is scheduled to go to trial on September 4.