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SMS scandal forces ouster of Finland's foreign minister

SMS scandal forces ouster of Finland's foreign minister

A leading government party said Tuesday it is removing Ilkka Kanerva as Finland's foreign minister because of a text message scandal involving an erotic dancer.
Finance Minister Jyrki Katainen, chairman of Kanerva's conservative National Coalition Party said he cannot remain foreign minister "because he no longer enjoys the trust and general respect which would make it possible for him to continue."
The conservative party, which has eight members in the four-party government, holds the foreign ministry post. It was to meet later Tuesday to decide on a successor for Kanerva.
Katainen told the Verkkouutiset Web news that he had made the decision "with a heavy heart" after a lengthy discussion with Kanerva late Monday.
"This was the heaviest decision I have had to make as the chairman of the party. Ike (Kanerva) is my friend and he has performed his duties as foreign minister in an exemplary way," Katainen was quoted as saying by Verkkouutiset.
Kanerva initially denied reports in a magazine that he had sent about 200 messages on his mobile phone to the dancer, Johanna Tukiainen, but last week he apologized publicly, acknowledging he had sent some messages, but insisted they were all work-related.
According to Tukiainen, he had inquired what she wore under her evening dress.
Although Kanerva apparently broke no laws and his longtime partner accepted his apology, the 60-year-old foreign minister's judgment and credibility were widely questioned, particularly as he had been involved in a similar scandal in 2005 when he was a deputy speaker of Parliament.