Bildt in hot water over Iraq war lobbying

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, already heavily criticised for his share portfolio, was under fire again Friday for having been a member of a lobby group pushing for an invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Bildt was a member of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (CLI), described by the Swedish media as a conservative lobby group close to the Bush administration and the arms industry pushing for the United States to invade.

Sweden’s former Social Democratic prime minister Göran Persson said on Friday that Bildt’s involvement in the group, revealed by the Swedish press this week and since confirmed, was damaging to the Scandinavian country’s reputation on the international scene.

“Sweden’s voice in the world will be something no one will listen to. I don’t think there is anyone in the European Union who would want to be linked to this type of group in the United States,” Persson told Swedish Radio.

But Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt has defended his foreign minister, who is also a former prime minister, saying he has “absolute” confidence in him.

Persson urged Reinfeldt to shed light on all of Bildt’s links to big business and organisations.

Since his appointment to the government in October, Bildt has been criticised for his share holdings in Vostok Nafta, a Swedish group whose portfolio is overwhelmingly dominated by Russian gas giant Gazprom, and Lundin Petroleum, a Swedish oil company with activities in Sudan.

Bildt sold his Vostok Nafta shares several weeks after becoming foreign minister following an outcry, and later handed over his share portfolio to be managed by a blind trust. The Swedish press reported on Friday that his holdings in Lundin Petroleum had been sold.

Members of his own coalition centre-right government were also critical of his involvement in the CLI.

“The credibility of Sweden’s foreign policy is questionable,” Centre Party deputy Kerstin Lundgren told daily Svenska Dagbladet.