Afghan president drops Oslo visit

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The president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, has postponed his planned visit to Norway on Friday following this week’s attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The attack killed the US ambassador to Libya and several American diplomats.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg (left) with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at a NATO meeting in Chicago last spring. In the background, Norwegian Defense Minister Espen Barth Eide. PHOTO: Utenriksdepartementet

Karzai had planned to meet with Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg in Oslo as Norwegian troops withdraw from Afghanistan after nearly nine years of trying to help stabilize the war-torn country. Norway’s foreign ministry stated, though, that because of “the serious incidents in some Arab countries,” Karzai “saw a need to remain in Afghanistan.”

The Norwegian government, meanwhile, has condemned the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi “in the strongest terms.” It allegedly was sparked by Muslim anger over a controversial film made by an American-Israeli and backed by conservative Christian and Jewish groups that ridicules the prophet Mohammed. Reports were emerging Thursday, however, that the attack on the US consulate seemed well-planned and may have used the uproar over the film as a guise.

Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre called such acts of violence “indefensible,” adding that Norway “will raise the matter with the Libyan authorities.” Støre noted that under international law, “the receiving state has full responsibility for the security of diplomatic and consular missions and their staff.”

Norway was an active participant along with the US in the UN-sanctioned and NATO-led military operation last year that aimed to protect Libyan civilians during the insurgency that toppled the Gadhafi regime. Norway, which also has business interests in Libya, has promised support for the new Libyan government in its transition to democracy.

Some Norwegian commentators referred to the attack on the US consulate this week as “unfair” given the US support for the Libyan opposition. There also has been speculation, though, over whether the attacks were carried out by pro-Gadhafi forces seeking revenge.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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