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Prime Minister Vanhanen: Sacking Kanerva "Unfortunate"

The cabinet change has been met with mixed reactions among the country's political leadership. Commenting on the foreign minister change from New York, where he is to hold the floor at a special session of the UN, Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen called the National Coalition's decision to replace foreign minister Ilkka Kanerva "unfortunate." Vanhanen said Kanerva has been very proactive in the performance of his foreign policy duties. The Prime Minister however said the foreign minister change will be handled in a way that won't affect Finland's foreign policy -- especially now when Finland is more in the limelight than usual, as it holds OSCE chairmanship in 2008. Vanhanen said the scandal involving Kanerva and an erotic dancer has done little to tarnish Finland's image on the world stage. The foreign press has nonetheless showed interest in the development of the story. Kanerva's salacious text messages to the dancer have been reported worldwide, including in Europe, North America and Asia. Moving Forward The Social Democrats and the Left Alliance, currently in opposition, said they will keep a close eye on how the new foreign minister, MEP Alexander Stubb, settles into his post. "The primary condition is for foreign and security policy activities to be representative of the government's policy, which has also been agreed upon by parliament," said SDP chairman Eero Heinäluoma. Stubb is known as a proponent of NATO membership. SDP Parliamentarian Miapetra Kumpula-Natri, meanwhile, said she hoped Stubb would be active on the EU policy front in Finland, as well as within the European Union. President Tarja Halonen commented that she expects cooperation with Stubb to run smoothly. Halonen will appoint Stubb as foreign minister on Friday. Ilkka Kanerva is currently on sick leave. YLE

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