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"Norwegian airport probe says court of impeachment must be considered"


 
Friday, March 2, 2001

Airport probe says court of impeachment must be considered
The Associated Press


OSLO, NORWAY - A commission probing bitter allegations of impropriety in
planning Norway's new national airport said Thursday that parliament should
consider impeachment proceedings against at least one former government
minister.

The 12.9 billion kroner (dlrs 1.5 billion) Oslo Airport-Gardermoen, about 50
kilometers (30 miles) north of the capital, opened in August 1998 after
decades of intense debate over where to build a new national airport.

The selection of Gardermoen has been shrouded in years of speculation about
political trickery, manipulation of facts and even the suggestion that an
opponent may have been murdered.

In June 2000, parliament appointed a special seven-member commission, led by
law professor Eivind Smith, to investigate allegations about the 1992
decision.

The commission dismissed most allegations as groundless or grossly
exaggerated by the news media. However, it said Lars Gunnar Lie, transport
minister in a coalition led by Conservative Jan P. Syse, withheld crucial
information about recommendations to consider other sites.

Among other things, the report said Lie, now a member of parliament from the
Christian Democratic Party, blocked arguments from the Norwegian Civilian
Aviation Administration.

``Lie and possibly other members of the Syse government in the spring of
1990 failed to present strong arguments for evaluating other alternatives,''
said Smith. ``We believe there is reason to investigate a violation of the
minister's duty'' to inform parliament ahead of its decision.

Lie said he feared that too many alternatives would lead to even greater
project delays.

``I want to say that I take this commission report very seriously, and want
time to go through it,'' Lie said at a news conference.

The report recommended that parliament consider charges against Lie and
possibly others, but did not assess guilt or innocence.

The 1994 death of Jan F. Wiborg, an engineer hired to evaluate weather
reports from an alternative site, also spurred speculation after he fell
from a Copenhagen hotel window.

But the commission said Wiborg suffered emotional and economic problems
unrelated to the project and there was no evidence of foul play.

It was not clear when parliament would decide whether to raise charges. The
rarely used Court of Impeachment can try current and former members of
government.

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