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Reinfeldt backs Persson over Middle East

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15:07 CEST+02:00
A conservative government would not have reacted to the ongoing Middle East crisis any differently to Göran Persson's Social Democrat government, according to the leader of the Moderates, Fredrik Reinfeldt.

Reinfeldt said he wants Sweden to continue to urge restraint in the region, and that he has no objections to the Swedish government's response to the conflict.

"For me, foreign policy is not an area for highlighting differences," he said.

"We can say that the situation is very serious and that you can only be shocked by the human suffering. In a Moderate-led government I would have made sure that we continued to be a balanced voice."

According to Reinfeldt, Israel was entitled to deliver a military response to Hezbollah's rocket attacks from southern Lebanon. But the scale of the reprisal was debatable.

"Israel's right to defend itself is clearly established in international law," said Reinfeldt.

"The debate is about what is a proportional defence. There are good grounds for the claim that it has partly been disproportionate. The fact that UN people have been killed is completely unacceptable and for that Israel is justly criticised."

The evacuation of Swedish citizens from Lebanon also met with Reinfeldt's approval - so far, at least.

"It's a little too soon to say. There has been criticism about the support on the ground, but at the same time, many have been able to come home."

Reinfeldt does not expect the crisis in the Middle East to become an election issue, despite criticism of Israel from both the Social Democrats and the government's partners.

"For being a Social Democrat prime minister, Göran Persson has a very balanced view of the conflict in the Middle East," commented Reinfeldt.

Reinfeldt believes it is too early to decide whether Sweden should contribute soldiers to a possible peace-keeping force in the area. But there is a risk, he said, that Swedish efforts will weaken if they are stretched to too many undertakings.

"I'm one of those who has advocated a bigger presence in a few places," he said.

The Moderates leader emphasised that the opposition alliance parties were united in their view of the Middle East. But it is not yet decided which party would control the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in the event of an opposition victory in September's election.

"There is no reason to divide anything up before the voters have given their support, and it's still very evenly balanced," said Reinfeldt.

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