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Ohly: stop selling arms to America

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15:15 CEST+02:00
Sweden's Left Party is demanding that Sweden stop arms exports to the United States, Britain and other countries with troops in Iraq. Leader Lars Ohly also said that the country's military should stop all cooperation with Israel, citing current Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip.

"It is shameful that the rest of the world is not being clearer in its abhorrence of Israel's outrages," Ohly told an audience in Visby.

He challenged foreign minister Jan Eliasson to "take off his diplomat's suit," and make his objections known.

Ohly said that all military cooperation with Israel should cease. He cited the fact that Sweden has a military attaché in the country and that it imports defence equipment from Israel. The party also claims that the Israeli army tests arms on Swedish soil.

Acting defence minister Sven-Erik Österberg said that there was no military partnership with Israel, but admitted that annual imports of defence equipment from the country were worth 37 million kronor.

Österberg said that there was no current possibility to stop such imports, but said that procedures would be re-examined with the aim of making it possible.

He said that the Swedish military attaché in Israel was not involved in partnerships with the Israeli military, but was simply there to monitor military developments in the region. Österberg denied that Israel tested weapons on Swedish soil. An Israeli company has, however, been to Sweden to test software that Sweden had bought.

The party demanded an "immediate" end to arms exports to the United States and other countries with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Swedish law forbids exports of defence equipment to countries that are fighting wars.

"Regarding the United States, we do not judge them to be at war," Österberg said.

He added that permits for arms exports were not granted by ministers, but by the Strategic Products Inspectorate.

The Left Party has said it wants to be a full coalition partner with the Social Democrats if the left-wing bloc gains a majority in September's election. This would likely mean some ministerial jobs would go to the Left Party. But the two parties' divergent views on foreign policy and arms exports could become a sticking point.

Ohly said he would not deliver ultimatums to the government over the Israel and arms export issues, but warned that it would be hard to defend a partnership with the Social Democrats if Swedish foreign policy and arms export policy was not changed "in a meaningful way."

Ohly also used his speech to attack the centre-right opposition Alliance. He accused them of wanting to push down wages by cutting levels of unemployment benefit.

"We would have a low-wage proletariat," he claimed.

Ohly also gave the thumbs down to tax cuts, and slammed the Alliance's proposed tax reductions. He said that the money should be used instead to fund 200,000 jobs in the public sector, to improve dental services and to increase student living allowances.

Defence manufacturers play an important role in Sweden's economy, with Saab and Bofors (owned by British BAE Systems) among the major exporters. In total, the arms industry accounted for 0.9 percent of Swedish goods exported in 2005.

Swedish arms and defence equipment exports to countries with troops in Iraq were worth in excess of 1.8 billion kronor in 2005, according to government statistics. Arms exports to the United States were worth 745 million kronor, exports to Australia were worth 380 million and exports to the UK were worth 353 million. .

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