Former Norwegian PM held for questioning at U.S. Airport

Dulles, Virginia [USA], Feb. 3 : Former Norwegian prime minister Kjell Magne Bondevik has said that he was questioned and prevented from leaving the Dulles Airport for about an hour on Tuesday apparently because he had visited Iran in 2014.

Bondevik, who flew into Dulles Airport from Europe on Tuesday afternoon, was not immediately allowed to leave after customs agents saw in his passport that he had been to Iran, reports ABC7.

His passport also indicates he is the former prime minister of Norway, a U.S. ally. "Of course I fully understand the fear of letting terrorists come into this country," said Bondevik, adding that it should have been obvious he's not a terrorist.

"It should be enough when they found that I have a diplomatic passport, [that I'm a] former prime minister.

That should be enough for them to understand that I don't represent any problem or threat to this country and [to] let me go immediately, but they didn't," he said.

Bondevik, who served as the prime minister of Norway from 1997-2000 and 2001-2005, said that he was placed in a room with travellers from the Middle East and Africa who were also facing extra scrutiny.

He said that he had to sit and wait for about 40 minutes and then he was questioned for about 20 minutes regarding a trip to Iran in 2014.

Bondevik, also the president of a human rights organization called The Oslo Center, went to Iran in 2014 to speak at a human rights conference there.

Although President Trump's controversial temporary travel ban has led to extra scrutiny of many travellers in the past week, Bondevik said that he was told the scrutiny he received had nothing to do with it.

Instead, it was related to a 2015 law signed by then president Barack Obama. The law signed in the wake of terrorist attacks in California and Paris was aimed at protecting the U.S.

from terrorists. It places extra restrictions on some citizens from 38 countries -- including Norway -- that are part of the U.S.'s Visa Waiver Program.

Citizens of those countries normally do not need a visa to visit the U.S. for up to 90 days, but because of the law they now do need a visa if they have been to Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia or Yemen since March 2011.

Those are the same seven countries Trump included in his temporary travel ban. Bondevik said that his office contacted the U.S. Embassy in Oslo prior to his trip this week and was told his passport and a separate electronic travel authorization (called ESTA) would be sufficient to enter the United States.

"I was surprised, and I was provoked. What will the reputation of the U.S. be if this happens not only to me, but also to other international leaders?" he said about being set aside for questioning.

A spokesperson with U.S. Customs and Border Protection said CBP is prohibited by privacy laws from discussing specifics of any.

Bondevik came to the United States to attend Thursday morning's National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton.

Source: ANI