The country's year-old coalition government resigned Monday after the uneasy center-right alliance split over how much Norway should open itself to trade with the European Economic Community.
Conservative Prime Minister Jan P. Syse told Parliament that his government could not agree on the country's position in talks between the EEC and the six-nation European Free Trade Association, of which Norway is a member.The talks are to center on the creation of a joint economic region.
Syse had worked through the weekend, seeking common ground that would allow his coalition of the Conservative, Center and Christian Democratic parties to remain in power.
But the anti-trade bloc Center Party, with strong support from the country's subsidized farmers, rejected the idea of sweeping changes in Norwegian laws that protect domestic industry and resources.
During talks on the creation of the joint economic region, the European Community has pressed for changes in the Norwegian laws. The EEC says the laws discriminate against foreigners.
The Center Party, the governing coalition's smallest member, wants continued border controls and some protection of domestic agriculture, fishing grounds and other resources.
Syse's government will remain in office until a new government is formed, which could take several days.
Norway's parliament was divided into nearly equal blocs of socialist and non-socialist blocs after Sept. 11, 1989 national elections, and news reports have said that the near deadlock has made both sides reluctant to govern.
Anders Talleraas, the Conservative's parliamentary leader, said the party has encouraged Syse to form a new single-party government because of the small non-socialist majority.
"I am prepared to form a new government," Syse said before delivering his government's formal resignation to Crown Prince Harald. Norway's figurehead monarch, King Olav V, is recovering from a stroke.
Syse would need backing from all four non-socialist parties.
Without it, he will likely ask former Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland to form her third Labor Party government since 1981.
Her left-leaning party is the country's largest. In addition to socialist allies, it would need backing from the Center Party to form a government.
"It is still not clear how the new government will be made up," Brundtland said in an interview. She said Labor is "in a clear observer role, waiting to see what happens."
When the coalition agreed on a joint platform and toppled Brundtland last year, the sensitive European Economic Community issue was left vague.