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Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik returned on Thursday from 3 1/2 weeks of sick leave for depression, insisting he could handle the stress of the job.

"My strength is back," Bondevik, a pastor in Norway's Lutheran church, told a news conference which he quipped was as packed as a Christmas church service.

"I know that the tasks facing me are tough. I am looking forward to getting down to work," he said. After disappearing from view on Aug. 30, he said he had spent his time with his family, going for walks and watching soccer.

Bondevik, who had gone on sick leave complaining of a "depressive reaction" to over-work, said he had abruptly run out of energy 10 months after taking office.

"My capacity had seemed endless, something it obviously isn't," he said.

"Those of us who have been blessed with a big capacity for work must recognize that we cannot ruthlessly exploit ourselves over a long period."

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