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Persson "got right tsunami information"

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16:11 CET+01:00
Prime Minister Göran Persson did not get incorrect information about the South Asian tsunami as it was unfolding on 26th December last year, his closest aide Lars Danielsson has said.

Danielsson was speaking at a press conference on Tuesday about his role during the tsunami catastrophe.

“He did not receive incorrect information, he received the information that was available given the circumstances on the day, and I am completely clear about that,” Danielsson, Persson's state secretary, told the press conference.

Persson yesterday expressed concern that he might have received incorrect information from Danielsson on the day of the disaster. The reason for this is that Danielsson is uncertain as to whether he spoke to Hans Dahlgren, the foreign ministry's cabinet secretary, on 26th December. Dahlgren has long denied that he had any conversation with Danielsson.

Danielsson says that his recollection is that he called Dahlgren, but adds that he can no longer be completely sure that this happened. He says that he definitely had contact with the foreign ministry, but has no idea of who he might have spoken with if it were not Dahlgren.

The state secretary passed on information about the situation at the foreign ministry, among other things, to Persson, who was celebrating Christmas at the prime ministerial retreat at Harpsund.

Danielsson told the press conference that he is sorry that there is confusion about who called whom, but added that the important thing is that the confusion did not affect the actions of the government:

“The information that was available was also available through many other channels – in the media and in many other communications during the course of that day, so however unfortunate it is that there is this lack of clarity [on the question of the phone calls], I am quite certain that this did not affect what the government did on that day.”

When the Catastrophe Commission, which investigated the government's reaction to the tsunami, questioned Danielsson on March 3rd, he claimed that he had spoken to Dahlgren at least three times on Boxing Day.

At the press conference Danielsson made clear that he still has the same recollection, but that he is no longer as sure as he was.

“I have a recollection, and I still stand by that, but this recollection has been questioned. All I am doing is humbly recognizing that there are different recollections of what happened and that I therefore do not want to question the recollections of another honourable person,” said Danielsson.

Danielsson says he regrets that he previously appeared so certain about his account.

“I blame myself for not being more clear in the autumn that there was this uncertainty.”

But Danielsson says he doesn't think it is strange that he can't account with certainty for all his contacts on 26th December.

“I don't have a system in my daily life in which I take notes of all my phone calls and communications.”

His communications with the foreign ministry left him under the impression that the situation was under control. This impression was relayed to the prime minister.

Göran Persson says he still has faith in his state secretary but added today that the situation “is serious for him,” because he is no longer certain about the information he gave to the commission.

The Catastrophe Commission's chairman, Johan Hirschfeldt, said he will consult with his colleagues about Danielsson's comments during Tuesday and Wednesday.

TT/The Local

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