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Long IslandPoliticsSpin Cycle

Oslo mayor: Obama envoy pick from L.I. seems less than 'interested' in Norway

Oslo Mayor Fabian Stang on Sunday said in a nationally broadcast interview on Norway Broadcasting Corporation that he opposed the nomination of Long Island businessman George Tsunis to become U.S. ambassador to Norway, calling him an "unprofessional ambassador."

Stang, a member of the Conservative Party, criticized Tsunis for his fumbling performance in his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and said he might write a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to nominate someone else.

Tsunis has been criticized for errors in his testimony, such as calling Norway's political leader a "president" instead of a "prime minister," and for being a political appointee who was rewarded with the ambassadorship for raising close to $1 million for Obama's re-election campaign in 2012.

Stang's comments came two days before U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's visit to Oslo on Tuesday for one-on-one meetings with both the Prime Minister of Norway and the country's Minister of Justice.

Holder also will make remarks at the residence of the U.S. ambassador to Norway, a post that is currently vacant while Tsunis' nomination is stalled in the Senate.

"The comments made by the man chosen to come to Oslo makes us ask whether the U.S. is sending a professional ambassador," Stang said in the broadcast, according to a translation by Norway News in English.

"I think it will be very sad for Norwegian-American relations if the Norwegian people are made to feel like second-class citizens by getting an unprofessional ambassador. So I'm evaluating whether to politely ask whether we don't deserve a professional ambassador," he said.

In his assessment of Tsunis, Stang added, "He is surely a fine man and has surely done an excellent [job] for himself and for Obama's election campaign. But given what we saw from his hearing, he doesn't seem very interested in Norway."
The White House had no comment.

Some Norwegian commentators criticized Stang for commenting on international relations. Erik Lokke, with the Norwegian political think tank, was quoted in the translated article as saying: "You can just imagine what Norwegians would think if the Americans tried to influence who Norway should send as ambassador to the U.S."

 In the United States, a group of current and former leaders of Norwegian and Swedish chambers of commerce have been aggressively lobbying members of the U.S. Senate – particularly those in the so-called "Nordic states" in the upper Midwest – to vote against Tsunis' nomination.

So far the group has succeeded with four Democrats: both Minnesota Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken; Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota, and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.

But the group's leader, St. Paul, Minn., attorney T. Michael Davis, said his group didn't seek to influence the mayor of Oslo, Norway's capital and largest city.
"The mayor's actions, to my knowledge, have been taken fully independent of anyone within our group," Davis said in an email.

"Since his announcement, however, we have been in touch with the mayor's office to offer background knowledge and our support," he said.

UPDATE: Davis said he is a leader in the group, but not the group's leader.
Here is one Norway-based press account of the Tsunis ruckus.

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