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Europe

Iceland's Government Collapses Over Financial Crisis

The North Atlantic nation has been hit hard by the global credit crunch. The current government has been under pressure since then and on Monday succumbed, with the prime minister to hand in his resignation.

Prime Minister Geir Haarde

The Icelandic government under Prime Minister Geir Haarde has collapsed

The government of Iceland was to resign Monday in the wake of the financial turmoil that hit the North Atlantic nation, Prime Minister Geir Haarde said.

Haarde, who last week said he was suffering from cancer and was to step down as leader of the Independence Party at the party conference in March, said the coalition with the Social Democrats has ended with immediate effect.

The coalition was formed after elections in 2007.

A man walks in front of the Kaupping Bank in Reykjavik

The nation's three banks were nationalized in October

Iceland has experienced a wave of protests since October when the country's three banks Glitnir, Landsbanki and Kaupthing were nationalized after almost collapsing due to the global credit crunch.

The premier, 57, was later Monday to hand in is resignation to the president.

Elections to be held early

At his announcement last week, Haarde said his party favored early elections to be held May 9 -- two years early. He did not offer new details Monday.

Haarde last week said he is to undergo treatment for a small malignant tumor of the esophagus at a hospital outside Iceland at the end of this month or in February.

The premier had until last week resisted increasing pressure to call early elections, arguing that such a move risked slowing down measures to counter the crisis.

Economy contracting

View of the city of Reykjavik

The North Atlantic nation of 320,000 was hit extremely hard by the credit crunch

The North Atlantic nation of some 320,000 people is facing a severe contraction of its economy with unemployment due to rise sharply.

Interest rates are at 18 percent and the country recently secured a $2.1-billion loan from the International Monetary Fund.

Haarde has been prime minister since 2006 after previously serving as foreign minister and finance minister. He formed a coalition after elections in 2007 with the Social Democrats as junior partner.

The leader of the Social Democrats, Foreign Minister Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladottir, recently returned to Iceland after undergoing medical treatment in Sweden.

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