Did Norway Promote a Diplomat Who Compared Israelis to Nazis?

In contrast with Norwegian assurances, Trine Lilleng will complete Riyadh posting with title of Consul.

A first secretary in Norway's embassy in Riyadh who compared Israelis to Nazis will return to Oslo next month with the title of Consul, after completing her posting, Haaretz has learned.

This contrasts with assurances by Norway's foreign minister that the diplomat had been recalled.

In January Trine Lilleng, then described by her foreign ministry as first secretary, sent an email through her official foreign ministry account with images of slain children said to have been killed in the Israeli attack on Hamas in Gaza, juxtaposed with photos of Jewish Holocaust victims in seemingly correlating situations.

In the mail, she wrote: "I always wondered why they didn't learn anything from the horror during WWII. Now I see what they learnt [mistake in original text]." As reported by Haaretz, the mail prompted opposition politicians to demand she be rebuked or recalled.

But an embassy employee told Haaretz two weeks ago that Lilleng was "sitting by her desk." The employee said Lilleng was a consul.

This does not represent a promotion, according to Ragnhild Imerslund, spokeswoman in the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "The title depends on the functions of the person in the actual position at the embassy. Ms Lilleng has been First Secretary ... In executing her consular duties she may use the title Consul."

But after Norwegian media reported about Lilleng's Holocaust inversion in January, the ministry emphasized that she belonged to the administrative staff as opposed to the diplomatic staff, according to Per Antonsen, a former veteran consultant on foreign policy to the Norwegian government.

"I doubt whether this would be considered a formal promotion, but it isn't the opposite either," he told Haaretz.

Commenting about Lilleng's actions, Imerslund said: "Ms. Lilleng voiced her personal opinion and in no case did she express the opinion of the - Norwegian government. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs - deeply deplores [these] views and comparisons."

When queried about steps to reprimand Lilleng, Imerslund replied that the ministry "will not comment on personnel matters related to individual staff," but added "the matter has been dealt with internally." She also said that Lilleng's assignment in Riyadh will expire in August.

This contrasts with Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store's statement in an interview with Maariv in February that Lilleng was "no longer working in Riyadh."

Imerslund, the spokeswoman, said that in the interview, Store "by mistake did say that Ms. Lilleng was no longer working in Riyadh. However, this was immediately corrected during the interview by the Minister's aide."

She added: "We therefore regret that [Maariv reporter] Shalom Yerushalmi chose to quote the minister the way he did." Yerushlami says that he does not recall receiving the correction.

After checking a recording of the interview, Yerushalmi said he did not find the correction. "If the aide's correction was made and omitted, then why didn't the Norwegians complain after the interview ran?" he said.

"Only in very rare circumstances does the ministry correct printed interviews and it did not happen in this case," Imerslund replied. Asked to arrange an interview with the aide, whom she identified as Haakon Svano, Imerslund said he could not be interviewed because he was "currently on summer leave."


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