Image: Ilkka Kanerva
Hrvoje Polan  /  AFP - Getty Images
Finnish Foreign Minister Ilkka Kanerva arrives for a European Union ministers meeting in Brdo, Slovenia, on Friday.
updated 3/28/2008 8:42:13 PM ET 2008-03-29T00:42:13

Pressure is mounting on Finland's foreign minister to resign after he sent reportedly raunchy text messages to an erotic dancer.

Ilkka Kanerva initially denied a magazine's report that he had sent about 200 messages on his mobile phone to the dancer. He later acknowledged sending some messages and apologized, but he insisted they were work-related.

The dancer, Johanna Tukiainen, contradicted Kanerva, saying the foreign minister had inquired in the messages about what she was wearing under her evening dress.

Gossip magazine Hymy, which broke the story earlier this month, said Thursday that it would publish some of the text messages next week.

Kanerva appeared not to have broken any laws and his longtime partner has accepted his apology, but the 60-year-old foreign minister's judgment and credibility have been widely questioned.

An unusual scandal for Finland
The scandal is unusual in Finland, a country where politics and private lives traditionally are kept well apart.

Kanerva still has the support of the conservative National Coalition Party as well as Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, who said private affairs should not be mixed into politics.

Vanhanen himself has failed in trying to keep his private and political life separate, losing a lawsuit against a former girlfriend who revealed intimate details about their relationship in a book.

His party will have to reconsider its stand if new information comes to light, said Pekka Ravi, head of the National Coalition Party's parliamentary group. The general view within the party is that Kanerva "acted in an inappropriate manner and tactlessly," Ravi said.

Not about to step down
On Friday, broadcaster MTV3 reported that the National Coalition Party was secretly preparing to replace Kanerva.

Kanerva was adamant that he won't step down voluntarily, even if the messages are published.

"I've had such great sympathy and support from the Finns that it's given me a good idea how the majority of people feel," Kanerva told Finnish Broadcasting Co.'s YLE TV on Friday.

Tukiainen, 29, is a member of an erotic dancing group called Dolls and has posed nude in several magazines. She has apologized for the scandal and said she has returned the money she received from Hymy magazine for the story about the text messages.

She also tried to halt the publication of the messages with a court injunction, but the Helsinki District Court rejected the request Thursday.

Kanerva told police that he has received death threats because of the scandal, and Tukiainen told local media she also has been threatened.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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