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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Norway promotes consular officer who compared Israel to Nazis

I'm sure that many of you remember Trine Lilleng, the Norwegian consular officer in Saudi Arabia who sent out emails in January comparing Israel to the Nazis. At the time, Norway's foreign minister claimed that she had been 'recalled,' but Haaretz now reports that she will be returning to Oslo next month with a promotion to the title of Consul.
But an embassy employee told Haaretz two weeks ago that Lilleng was "sitting by her desk." The employee said Lilleng was a consul.

This does not represent a promotion, according to Ragnhild Imerslund, spokeswoman in the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "The title depends on the functions of the person in the actual position at the embassy. Ms Lilleng has been First Secretary ... In executing her consular duties she may use the title Consul."

But after Norwegian media reported about Lilleng's Holocaust inversion in January, the ministry emphasized that she belonged to the administrative staff as opposed to the diplomatic staff, according to Per Antonsen, a former veteran consultant on foreign policy to the Norwegian government.

"I doubt whether this would be considered a formal promotion, but it isn't the opposite either," he told Haaretz.

Commenting about Lilleng's actions, Imerslund said: "Ms. Lilleng voiced her personal opinion and in no case did she express the opinion of the - Norwegian government. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs - deeply deplores [these] views and comparisons."

When queried about steps to reprimand Lilleng, Imerslund replied that the ministry "will not comment on personnel matters related to individual staff," but added "the matter has been dealt with internally." She also said that Lilleng's assignment in Riyadh will expire in August.

This contrasts with Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store's statement in an interview with Maariv in February that Lilleng was "no longer working in Riyadh."

Imerslund, the spokeswoman, said that in the interview, Store "by mistake did say that Ms. Lilleng was no longer working in Riyadh. However, this was immediately corrected during the interview by the Minister's aide."

She added: "We therefore regret that [Maariv reporter] Shalom Yerushalmi chose to quote the minister the way he did." Yerushlami says that he does not recall receiving the correction.

After checking a recording of the interview, Yerushalmi said he did not find the correction. "If the aide's correction was made and omitted, then why didn't the Norwegians complain after the interview ran?" he said.

"Only in very rare circumstances does the ministry correct printed interviews and it did not happen in this case," Imerslund replied. Asked to arrange an interview with the aide, whom she identified as Haakon Svano, Imerslund said he could not be interviewed because he was "currently on summer leave."
Her blog has not gone back up.

Maybe Israel ought to recall its ambassador for 'consultations' so the Norwegians - who see themselves as great 'peacemakers' here - will get the hint.

The (discredited) picture at the top of this post was used by Lilleng in her January mailing. There are more details about it here.


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