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Iceland commerce minister resigns

Posted by smeddum on January 25, 2009

Iceland’s commerce minister resigns
REYKJAVIK, Iceland (AP) — Iceland’s Minister of Commerce resigned his post on Sunday, citing the pressures of the island nation’s economic collapse.
Bjorgvin Sigurdsson told reporters he had quit and had also fired the head of the Iceland’s financial supervisory authority.
Sigurdsson’s resignation came two days after Prime Minister Geir Haarde called early national elections and announced that he would not stand for re-election.
The call for a May 9 election followed daily protests against his government’s handling of an economic crisis triggered by the collapse of the country’s banks under the weight of huge debts amassed during years of rapid expansion.
Inflation and unemployment have soared, and the krona currency has plummeted.
Haarde’s government has nationalized banks and negotiated around $10 billion in loans from the IMF and individual countries. But the country faces a bill likely to run to billions of dollars to repay thousands of Europeans who held accounts with subsidiaries of collapsed Icelandic banks.
He said Friday he won’t lead the Independence Party into the new elections because doctors had found a malignant tumor in his throat.
Haarde said Saturday he would travel to The Netherlands soon for treatment. Education minister Thorgerdur Katrin Gunnarsdottir will serve as prime minister in his absence.
On Saturday, thousands of people gathered to protest the government’s handling of the economy outside the parliament building — the 16th consecutive weekend demonstrations were held in the capital.
Protesters called on Haarde’s governing coalition to quit immediately and demanded changes in the leadership of the central bank and financial regulators.

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