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AMBASSADOR

US envoy wants to make ‘second impression’

George Tsunis, the would-be US ambassador to Norway who made headlines last week with his catastrophic senate hearing, has told The Local of how impatient he is to set the record straight.

US envoy wants to make 'second impression'
George Tsunis speaking to the US senate on Tuesday - Source: Screen Grab
"As you can imagine, the day when I am able to make a second impression cannot come soon enough," the Greek-American hotel millionaire said on Thursday. 
 
During the January 16 hearing Tsunis made a series of disastrous blunders that made headlines both in Norway and in the US, where his apparent ignorance was cited as a warning of what happens when political donors are rewarded with ambassadorial positions. 
 
Tsunis described politicians from the anti-immigration Progress Party, which has seven ministers in Norway's government, as "fringe elements" that "spew their hatred". 
 
He then went on to refer to Norway's "president", apparently under the impression that the country is a republic rather than a constitutional monarchy. 
 
State Department rules forbid nominee ambassadors from speaking to the press ahead of their formal appointments, preventing Tsunis from apologising publicly for the mistakes he made. 
 
But a person who knows the lawyer and businessman well told The Local of "the highest esteem" with which he views "the Kingdom of Norway", and added that he would still be "honoured" if called to serve in the country. 
 
"He made a mistake, and he has nothing, nothing but the highest respect for Norway," the friend said. "It’s a country he really wanted to go to, and believe me, he was offered a lot of options." 
 
The friend said that Tsunis particularly respected the country for establishing the Government Pension Fund of Norway, which takes its oil revenues and invests them for future generations. 
 
"He admires the way they conduct themselves there," the friend explained.  "He has found them to have a culture of investment, rather than a culture of consumption. They think three to four generations ahead."  

 
According to the friend, Tsunis is also a longstanding admirer of Norway's "sense of social conscience" and the work the country does internationally to promote peace. 
 

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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.