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OSLO (Reuters) - The deputy head of Norway's top opposition Labour Party has temporarily stepped down from his leadership post following accusations of sexual harassment, the party said on Monday.

Trond Giske, 51, who held several Cabinet posts in Labour governments, recently apologised for what he said was unsuitable behaviour but has rejected the most severe allegations as false and unfounded.

"In light of the demanding situation for the party, and the nature of the case, Trond Giske and I have agreed that he will be relieved of his duty as deputy leader for an indefinite period," Labour leader Jonas Gahr Stoere said in a statement.

On Dec. 21, Gahr Stoere said several women had accused his deputy of "unwanted encounters of a sexual nature." The board of the Labour Party is scheduled to meet on Tuesday to discuss the situation.

Giske, who is currently on sick leave, confirmed on Monday he had agreed to step aside temporarily from his leadership post, writing on his Facebook page that he hoped it would allow him to respond further to the accusations.

Giske, a former industry minister, culture minister and education minister, remains a member of Norway's parliament where he is also Labour's chief spokesman on economic policy.

A number of political, corporate and other leaders in several countries have quit or been fired in recent weeks as women have come forward with accusations of abuse and harassment.

In neighbouring Finland, the deputy head of the nationalist Finns Party quit his post on Dec. 19 after harassing a lawmaker in parliament.

The social movement aimed at raising awareness of sexual harassment and assault, epitomised by the #MeToo social media hashtag, was last month named Time magazine's 2017 "Person of the Year".

(Reporting by Terje Solsvik; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Reuters