Clinton dodges striking workers

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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton received a warm welcome to Oslo on Friday despite unseasonably cold weather and a strike by state workers outside Norway’s foreign ministry. As Clinton began a hectic two-day official visit, both she and Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre faced the disruption with smiles, with Clinton claiming it was “fantastic to be here.”

Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre welcomed US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to his offices in Oslo Friday morning, where a strike by state workers meant he'd need to serve the coffee. PHOTO: Elin Bjerkebo/Utenriksdepartementet

Temperatures were chilly and winds were brisk but the sun came out as Clinton and Støre headed into the ministry building on the edge of downtown. Støre admitted to Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that the ongoing strike by public sector workers in Norway also meant he’d have to serve the coffee himself once inside, “but I look forward to it.”

‘Close contact’
Støre also said it was “very nice to have her here,” adding that there were “few colleagues with whom I have such close contact” as Clinton. They’ve met on several occasions but this was the first time Clinton was visiting Norway as US Secretary of State.

Clinton arrived in Oslo Thursday night and met Støre mid-morning, before both headed on for a meeting with Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg at the nearby Akershus Fortress and Castle. shortly after noon. She was guest of honor at a luncheon inside the historic castle, attended by various state and community leaders.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg welcoming Hillary Clinton at a luncheon Friday at Oslo's historic Akershus Fortress and Castle. PHOTO: Andrea Gjestvang/Utenriksdepartementet

Stoltenberg told reporters that the agenda for his meeting with Clinton included such issues as cooperation within NATO, the situation in Syria and the ongoing finance and debt crises. With Støre, she reportedly also discussed Norway’s evaluation of the emerging democracy in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma).

Norway eased its sanctions against Myanmar earlier this year, before the US did, and will host the country’s longtime champion of democracy and human rights, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, in two weeks, when she makes her first long-distance international trip since her initial arrests more than 20 years ago. NRK reported that Clinton was interested in hearing how valid Norway thinks the democratization process really is in Myanmar, or whether it amounts to window dressing.

Northward bound
After a scheduled meeting with King Harald V and attendance at an international health conference at Oslo City Hall, Clinton and Støre were due to travel north to Tromsø Friday evening for more meetings on Arctic issues, including the Northwest Passage. Norway’s experience in negotiating territorial rights in the Arctic with Russia can be of interest to the US as it negotiates territorial rights with Canada.

Clinton was due to travel on to Sweden later on Saturday.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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