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Swiss cancel Swedish fighter-jet air show

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A Jas Gripen in flight. File photo: Marcus Hjalmarsson Neideman/TT
13:32 CET+01:00
The Swiss government's eagerness to avoid graft accusations could explain why the Swiss cancelled Swedish fighter jets taking part in an air show, Swedish reports suggested on Tuesday.

Saab's flagship product had been due to be part of an air show on the weekend to mark the Alpine World Cup Final in Lenzerheide.

Sources told Sveriges Radio (SR) that the Swedish participation had been cancelled because the Swiss government did not want to be accused of trying to sway public opinion in favour of the Jas Gripen. The government is facing a citizens-initiative referendum that will have final sway over whether the country should buy the Swedish jets.

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Saab headquarters in Sweden told SR that the company was not engaging in any marketing activities in Switzerland whatsoever ahead of the plebiscite, which is scheduled for May.

The military equipment makers did, however, partake in an industry conference in February to demonstrate the Jas Gripen, and to illustrate what a reciprocal deal between the country and the Swedish company could entail for both parties, SR reported.

"We showed what we intend to build together with Swiss industry, and we had a Gripen model aeroplane to show what parts will be made in Switzerland," Saab spokesman Sebastian Carlsson said.  

Swiss opinion polls show that a majority of voters oppose plans to buy the Swedish fighters, which would cost the Alpine country $3.47 billion. Approved by the government in 2011 and backed by parliament last September, the military deal cannot be blocked as such. But under Switzerland's rules, opponents can contest the law on funding the purchase, by depleting the military budget over the next decade.

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The coalition campaigning against the deal is steered by the left-leaning Socialists and Greens, plus anti-militarists who last year lost in a referendum in which voters bucked a European trend and kept their conscription army.  But the Gripen's adversaries also include economic liberals opposed to the price tag.

Additional reporting by AFP

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