Norway finance minister quits over IS woman's return from Syria

By Terje Solsvik and Victoria Klesty
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Norway finance minister quits over IS woman's return from Syria

FILE PHOTO: Euronext stock exchange's annual conference in Paris

By Terje Solsvik and Victoria Klesty

OSLO (Reuters) - Norwegian Finance Minister Siv Jensen and her right-wing Progress Party will resign from the government over a cabinet decision to help bring a woman suspected of Islamic State affiliation back home to Norway, Jensen said on Monday.

The resignation robs Conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg of her parliamentary majority and could make the country more difficult to govern, but Solberg still plans to remain in office as head of a minority coalition.

"I brought us into government, and I'm now bringing the party out," Jensen told a news conference.

There had been "too many compromises", Jensen said, while adding she wants to have a close dialogue with the prime minister in the future.

The Norwegian crown currency <EURNOK=> was largely unchanged after the announcement.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg said she would remain in office as head of a minority three-party coalition.

Most Norwegian governments since the 1970s have ruled with a minority in parliament, including Solberg between 2013 and January 2019.

Jensen's departure was triggered by the decision, announced last week, that the Norwegian woman and her two children would receive help to return to Norway from Syria so that one of the children could receive medical treatment.

The woman, who left Norway in 2013, was arrested on her return on suspicion of being a member of the Islamist militant group that briefly controlled a territory the size of Britain across Iraq and Syria.

While Progress had offered to help the children, the populist party sought to deny any government assistance for adults seeking to return home after joining Islamist groups abroad or marrying foreign fighters.

Decisions on whether to help women with IS ties return from Syria has caused controversy in Europe, including in Finland where the recently appointed government settled on a compromise to decide each case individually.

The Norwegian woman, who has not been named, has denied the charges against her and will fully cooperate with police during interrogation, her lawyer has said.

Jensen's exit, along with six other Progress cabinet ministers, leaves Solberg with a string of posts to fill, including that of oil and energy minister to oversee Western Europe's biggest oil and gas industry.

At the finance ministry, the new appointee will chart the course for the world's largest sovereign wealth fund, with assets of $1.1 trillion.

Norway's constitution does not allow early elections, and the next vote for parliament will take place in September 2021.


(Editing by Gwladys Fouche and Nick Macfie)