New Norwegian Cabinet to be presented Monday

Norway's new center-left coalition government will take office on Monday, replacing the coalition of Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik which resigned on Friday. Jens Stoltenberg, 46, who became Norway's youngest ever prime minister in 2000 as head of a Labor minority government, will head the three-party coalition of his Labor Party, the Socialist Left and the Center Party.

Bondevik lost parliamentary elections in September despite leading oil-rich Norway at a time of unprecedented prosperity, the AP reminds.

Christian Democrat Bondevik handed in his resignation to Norway's figurehead monarch, King Harald V, and advised him to contact Stoltenberg about forming a new government.

After meeting the king at the Oslo Royal Palace, Stoltenberg said he would present the new Cabinet on Monday afternoon.

"The king asked me to form a new government, and I said yes," Stoltenberg said upon leaving the palace.

After two weeks of negotiations, Stoltenberg revealed a joint platform for his coalition on Thursday.

Stoltenberg became Norway's youngest ever prime minister in March 2000 as head of a Labor minority government that stepped down after 19 months after disappointing election results.

The new left-leaning coalition in the 169-seat Parliament has said it will pull a small contingent of about 20 Norwegian troops out of Iraq, and will withdraw from the U.S.-led operation "Enduring Freedom" operation in Afghanistan. Instead, the government will step up its participation in NATO operations there.

The new government is taking over during an economic boom, due largely to the vast wealth that comes of Norway being the world's third largest oil exporter.

Bondevik stepped down after his government presented its national budget for 2006, in keeping with Norwegian tradition.

In presenting the budget to Parliament, outgoing Finance Minister Per-Kristian Foss repeatedly pointed out that Stoltenberg is taking over at a time when Norway is enjoying unprecedented prosperity.

"The new government has a good starting point," he said.

Norway has been ranked by the United Nations as the best country in the world to live in for five straight years. Despite that, Norwegian voters rejected Bondevik's government and its promises of tax relief in favor of the Labor-led bloc, which vowed to shift spending to welfare and health programs.


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