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Geir Haarde

Geir Haarde
Geir Haarde, Prime Minister of Iceland 2006-2009

In a HARDtalk interview broadcast on 12 February, Stephen Sackur talks to former Icelandic prime minister, Geir Haarde.

When the history of the still unfolding global financial crisis comes to be written Iceland will get a chapter all of its own.

Last autumn the so-called Viking Tiger became a failed financial state, its banks ruined, its currency in freefall.

Geir Haarde was the prime minister in the eye of that storm, who quit last month after days of public protest.

Stephen Sackur asked the former prime minister how things had gone so disastrously wrong.

Geir Haarde on what went wrong

Blame game

There were warnings as early as 2006 that Iceland was running the risk of financial crisis.

Stephen Sackur asked Mr Haarde whether he was prepared to say sorry for mistakes in the analysis he had made during the years he spent as finance minister and as prime minister.

Mr Haarde said: "I don't think there are any obvious single mistakes. I think this is a sequence of events.

"It's a series of developments that took place. And I think that if you want to go into the blame business, a lot of people would have to share that blame among themselves".

Stephen Sackur: "The people who put you in power want to know that you're prepared to take your share of the blame. Are you prepared to say sorry?"

Geir Haarde: "When and if I say that, that'll be after the result of our investigation comes out. "I will take my part of the responsibility when the results are clear".

Stephen Sackur asks Geir Haarde if he will apologise to the Icelandic people for the financial crash

Repeated warnings

The governor of Iceland's central bank, David Oddsson, has been asked by the country's new prime minister to resign, but has refused.

He says that over the past few years the board of governors of the bank forewarned the prime minister repeatedly that the nation's banking affairs were headed for collapse.

"We have been in close contact over these issues for a long time and the bank has its responsibility in regulating part of the framework here.

"But who is to blame, who said what to whom, etcetera will be part of the investigation that is now ongoing" said Mr Haarde.

"It is clear that the central bank had information on this situation that they were not able to make public and I think there were private talks between the central bank here and their colleagues in Europe of a very serious nature".

The Prime Minister was given repeated warnings that Iceland was risking a financial crash

British actions 'inexcusable'

Talking about the British government's actions last October to guarantee British depositors didn't lose their money, Geir Haarde described Britain's reaction as "totally out of proportion".

He said Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling had made "inaccurate statements at the time" which had done a lot of damage to the Icelandic economy.

He described the actions of the British government as "completely inexcusable, unnecessary and without warning".

Geir Haarde says Gordon Brown's actions damaged the Icelandic economy

HARDtalk is broadcast on the BBC World News channel Monday to Thursday at the following times (all GMT): 0430, 0930, 1430, 1830 , 2130 and 2330 (please note regional times may vary).

HARDtalk is also broadcast on the BBC News Channel Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 0430 and 2330.

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