Sweden was named by Mugabe along with Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. Speaking behind closed doors at the EU-Africa summit in Lisbon, Mugabe said the four countries were “arrogant”.
Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said it was “a great honour to be admitted to a group that stands up for human rights and democracy.”
“The way I look at it, Mugabe named what is actually the guard of honour for human rights,” Reinfeldt said.
The Swedish PM added that Mugabe’s presence in Lisbon risked boosting his image at home. It was therefore “incredibly important” to stand up against him in support of human rights and democracy, he said.
“And this is what has has happened. There’s been a lot of talk about red carpets, but that is not what this has been about. Not at all, in fact,” said Reinfeldt.
Following Mugabe’s outburst, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told the summit that the views said by Mugabe to be held by the four countries were in fact held by the whole EU, according to Reinfeldt’s account.
The impact of the speech on future diplomatic relations between Sweden and Zimbabwe is unclear, but Reinfeldt said there were no plans to withdraw Swedish diplomats from the country.
State-controlled media in the country have attacked Swedish ambassador Sten Rylander on a number of occasions. Rylander was the subject of caricatures in the pro-Mugabe Herald newspaper a few weeks ago.
Britain is usually Mugabe’s big hate object, and he rarely lets an opportunity to bash Zimbabwe’s former ruler and its leaders. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair and current PM Gordon Brown are among his favourite rhetorical whipping boys.