Sweden increases security abroad

Violence following the publication of cartoons depicting Mohammed has prompted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to warn Swedes against travelling to Syria and Lebanon.

Security at Swedish embassies is also to be increased.

Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds is holding a meeting with coalition and opposition parties on Monday afternoon to inform them of the changes.

Before the meeting, the foreign ministry will hold telephone conferences with the Swedish missions abroad where the risk is greatest. These will be not only embassies and consulates in Muslim countries but also those which share their building with Danish and Norwegian missions.

It is not yet clear who from the other parties will attend the meeting with Freivalds.

“The parties themselves will decide who they send,” Freivalds told TT.

The advice not to travel to Syria and Lebanon followed the torching of Scandinavian missions in the countries’ capitals, Damascas and Beirut. Both Norway and Denmark have warned their citizens not to travel to Syria.

The Swedish embassy in Damascus has also advised Swedes who are already in Syria to “exercise general caution” and to keep themselves updated about the current situation.

The foreign ministry has instructed all affected Swedish missions to increase their security.

“It’s a matter of increasing vigilance and calling upon the host country to ensure the mission’s security,” said Laila Freivalds.

“If they feel it’s necessary then they can also employ more guards,” she added.

She went on to say that Sweden would use its cultural institutes in Turkey’s Istanbul and Egypt’s Alexandria to attempt to find a more long term solution to the escalating violence prompted by the publication of the twelve cartoons in Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten.

Sweden has a good reputation in the Muslim world, according to Freivalds, after many years of working to bring about understanding between cultures and religions. She said she believes the institutes can play an important role.

“This is about using the networks they have to try to create calm,” she said.