Iceland's Commerce Minister Resigns From Post

Iceland's commerce minister quit his post Sunday citing the pressures of the island nation's economic collapse, as the country's political leaders met to discuss the fallout from the country's financial crisis.

Bjorgvin Sigurdsson told reporters he had resigned and had also fired the head of the Iceland's financial supervisory authority.

Sigurdsson acknowledged that Icelanders have lost faith with their government and political system. "I want to shoulder my part of the responsibility for that," he said.

Sigurdsson's resignation came two days after Prime Minister Geir Haarde called early national elections and announced that he would not stand for re-election.

After days of intense protests Haarde and Ingibjorg Gisladottir, the head of the Social Democratic Alliance -- his coalition partner -- held talks to discuss whether Iceland's government can continue to hold office.

The call for a May 9 election followed daily protests against his government's handling of an economic crisis triggered by the collapse of the country's banks under the weight of huge debts amassed during years of rapid expansion.

Inflation and unemployment have soared, and the krona currency has plummeted.

Haarde's government has nationalized banks and negotiated around $10 billion in loans from the IMF and individual countries. But the country faces a bill likely to run to billions of dollars to repay thousands of Europeans who held accounts with subsidiaries of collapsed Icelandic banks.

He said Friday he won't lead the Independence Party into the new elections because doctors had found a malignant tumor in his throat.

Haarde said Saturday he would travel to The Netherlands soon for treatment. Education minister Thorgerdur Katrin Gunnarsdottir will serve as prime minister in his absence.

On Saturday, thousands of people gathered to protest the government's handling of the economy outside the parliament building -- the 16th consecutive weekend demonstrations were held in the capital.

Protesters called on Haarde's governing coalition to quit immediately and demanded changes in the leadership of the central bank and financial regulators.