Greenland's government collapses over dispute about Inuit healer

Greenland's government has collapsed amid political bickering set off by a top official's use of an Inuit healer to cleanse government offices.

Greenland Premier Hans Enoksen, leader of the social democratic Siumut party, booted the left-wing Inuit Ataqatigitt party from his ruling coalition late Tuesday night, leaving the Arctic island of 56,000 without a government.

The coalition's demise was linked to last month's hiring of a healer to chase away evil spirits from government offices. The healer was hired by the semiautonomous Danish territory's top civil servant, Jens Lyberth, who was fired Sunday.

Most islanders belong to Denmark's Lutheran church, but some maintain ancient Inuit traditions, like drum dances, that are practiced during community gatherings.

The episode sparked a bitter dispute between Enoksen and deputy premier Josef Motzfeldt, who accused Enoksen of cronyism over the appointment of Lyberth and two other officials. He also sounded out opposition Democrats to see if they would form a ruling coalition with Inuit Ataqatigitt.

Enoksen maintained that his appointments were legal. He said Motzfeldt's talks with the opposition prompted him to sever coalition ties with the Inuit Ataqatigitt.

Enoksen will begin talks Wednesday with the opposition Liberal Atassut party to form a new coalition. His Siumut party holds 10 of the 31 seats in the parliament, while the Liberal Atassut party has seven seats. The outgoing coalition held 18 seats.

A former Danish colony, Greenland has had a local government since 1979 that runs most of its affairs. Denmark still handles its foreign and defence policies, as well as legal and currency issues.