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Norwegian PM shuffles cabinet as male ministers seek family time

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway’s Conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg replaced her ministers for oil and transportation in a cabinet reshuffle on Friday after both men sought to spend more time with their families.

FILE PHOTO: Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg arrives for the second day of a NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium, July 12, 2018. Tatyana Zenkovich/Pool via REUTERS

Gender equality plays a significant role in Norwegian politics, and though Solberg’s center-right cabinet still has a slight majority of men, the top positions of prime minister, finance minister and foreign minister are all held by women.

“I think many people underestimate how difficult it is to be a minister when your children don’t live in Oslo,” Solberg told a news conference.

“This is the main reason several ministers have given for resigning, particularly men.”

Terje Soeviknes, who has been oil minister for only 20 months, will move to his home town on Norway’s west coast, where his two children from a previous marriage still live.

“Some things are more important than others,” Soeviknes said, adding that it was the right decision because he needed “more time with the family”.

Similarly, Transportation and Communications Minister Ketil Solvik-Olsen said he will put his career on hold and move to the United States for a year while his wife takes up a position as a doctor at a hospital in the U.S. state of Alabama.

Soeviknes was replaced by fellow Progress Party member Kjell-Boerge Freiberg, a former mayor of a town in the Arctic Lofoten-Vesteraalen-Senja archipelago, in which the oil industry has long sought permission to explore.

On Friday he said that Norway’s moratorium on oil exploration in the region would remain in place.

Agriculture Minister Jon Georg Dale will replace Solvik-Olsen at the Ministry for Transport and Communications, with parliamentarian Baard Hoksrud taking Dale’s old portfolio.

August opinion polls showed the center-left opposition taking a narrow lead over the government for the first time in more than a year, a compilation by Norway’s poll of polls website showed.

Reporting by Terje Solsvik; Editing by Gwladys Fouche and David Goodman