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Danielsson: I was at the office on tsunami day

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11:58 CEST+02:00
Göran Persson's most senior aide, Lars Danielsson, has said he was at the government's Rosenbad headquarters at several points on 26th December 2004, the day a tsunami hit South Asia, claiming 543 Swedish lives.

The question of Danielsson's whereabouts on the day of the tsunami has been hotly debated following criticism of Sweden's slow response to the events unfolding in Thailand.

His evidence to two official enquiries about what he did to promote Swedish relief efforts on the day of the disaster appeared inconsistent, and the Justice Ombudsman (JO) opened an investigation to examine Danielsson's testimony. JO on Friday released transcripts of his interviews with the prime minister's state secretary.

In his evidence, he said that he was at Rosenbad from early on the morning of the disaster until around noon, and later for a period in the afternoon.

He said that his recollection was that he had a number of phone conversations with senior foreign ministry official Hans Dahlgren on the day of the disaster.

"My recollection, which I have laid out to the commission, was that there were three phone calls," he told JO Nils-Olof Berggren, recalling one in the morning and two in the afternoon.

He added that he had also tried in vain to reach Dahlgren earlier. He couldn't say when he had made these calls, but said it was "possibly before I came to Rosenbad." At that point he did not try to contact anyone else at the foreign ministry.

Dahlgren has produced mobile phone records to show that the two did not speak to each other.

"We spoke about this, and came to the conclusion that we have different recollections," said Danielsson.

"The most important thing for me was, regardless of these phone calls, the content of which had no implications for how the crisis was eventually handled."

The State Secretary was surrounded by journalists as he left the Riksdag on Friday morning.

"As long as the Justice Ombudsman is dealing with the question, I have no comment," he said as he emerged from a meeting of the parliamentary EU committee.

He was nonetheless bombarded with questions about where he was on 26th December 2004, and asked why he refused to answer.

"I have already responded to all these questions and have nothing to add. I am now waiting for JO to finish his investigation."

Asked what he would do to stop the rumours currently spreading in the tabloid press, he replied that he had already done everything necessary.

Aftonbladet started reporting daily on Danielsson twelve days ago. Readers have been asked to say whether they had faith in Danielsson. So far, 33,000 readers have replied and 95.7 percent have said no.

On Friday the paper wrote that Danielsson had travelled to Thailand on 22nd April on the government plane together with civil servant Helen Eduards and two other colleagues.

The cost of the trip was 521,300 kronor. On regular flights, the cost would have been 18,000 kronor. Danielsson's flights on the plane have cost the taxpayer 809,883 kronor since December, the paper claims.

Responding to the criticism, Danielsson claimed he had done nothing wrong.

"There are rules for how the government plane can be used. I have followed them."

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