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CHRISTMAS TREE

Oslo to send Christmas tree to Iceland after all

Oslo's City Council has reversed its decision to scrap its annual Christmas Tree to Reykjavik, after an unexpectedly furious reaction from Icelanders.

Oslo to send Christmas tree to Iceland after all
The ceremonial cutting of a Christmas tree intended for London in 2009. Photo: Oslo City Council
The council at Easter proposed ending the costly and logistically challenging process of shipping a tree all the way across the North Atlantic, announcing that it would instead pay for a tree to be cut down and decorated on Iceland. 
 
But Icelanders interpreted the proposal as a national snub, with many believing that the Christmas tree was being used as a proxy to punish Iceland over a fishing dispute. 
 
To fend off the crisis Oslo mayor Fabian Stang published a letter in Iceland's leading newspaper explaining the decision.  But it did little to clear the air and last week, the city's finance committee voted instead to continue the 50-year-tradition. 
 
"It is no secret that the termination of this scheme was received with great disappointment, and we see the uproar as an indication that this was more popular than we realized," Stang said after the council's decided to keep sending the tree last week. 
 
Dagur Eggertsson, Reykjavik new mayor, said he was "pleasantly surprised" by the move. 
 
 

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CHINA

Chinese tycoon keen to buy chunk of Norway

A Chinese property tycoon shut out by Iceland after he sought to buy a vast tract of the country is turning his attention to Norway, he told AFP on Monday.

Chinese tycoon keen to buy chunk of Norway
A stunning mountain in Iceland's Grimsstadir a Fjollum region, where Huang Nubo attempted to lease a 300km plot in 2011. Photo: Grímsstaðir farmers guesthouse and campground
Huang Nubo, founder of Chinese property firm Zhongkun Group, said in a telephone interview that he still wants to develop high-end resorts in northern Europe and plans to invest 80 million euros ($111 million) in Norway over the next five to 10 years.
 
His statement comes as a huge tract of the Arctic Svalbard Islands has been put up for sale by Henning Horn, a Norwegian industrialist and farmer, and his sisters Elin and Kari.   
 
Resource-hungry China has ambitions in the Arctic and until recently Beijing had dire relations with Oslo, but Huang denied his plans — which have proved controversial in the past — were politically driven.
   
In 2011, Reykjavik denied his request buy a huge wilderness area of Iceland for a tourist resort and nature reserve in a $200-million investment, citing foreign ownership laws.
   
He put forward a request in 2012 to lease a much smaller plot of land, which is apparently still pending.
   
Huang denied he was abandoning his ambitions in the North Atlantic island nation.
   
"We did not drop Iceland, it's just the progress is slow," he said. "I'm in no rush. I can wait after operations in other countries are more mature and then discuss it."
   
Huang recently announced plans to donate a reported $1.6 million to Norway's KODE Art Museums of Bergen to recover seven white marble columns from a Chinese palace looted by foreign forces in the 19th century.
   
Chinese-Norwegian relations went into a deep freeze after the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.
   
But the Norwegian government's controversial plans to avoid meeting Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama during his planned visit to the country later this month have been praised by Beijing.
   
China considers Tibet part of its sovereign territory and regards the Dalai Lama, also a Nobel laureate, as a separatist.
   
Huang denied the successful negotiation with the museum and Oslo's rejection of a meeting with the Dalai Lama were behind his new investment push, though he admitted the political climate could be a factor in potential deals.
   
"We'll definitely consider whether a country is friendly to China when we consider where to invest," he said.
 
"If it (the Norwegian government) did meet the Dalai Lama, it would bring difficulties for my investment as the Chinese government would not approve the deal," he added.
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