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Reinfeldt backs Moderate party secretary

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Reinfeldt backs Moderate party secretary
14:48 CEST+02:00
Fredrik Reinfeldt has come out in support of the Moderate Party's new party secretary Sofia Arkelsten, while one in four voters think she should step down in the wake of revelations that she accepted several all-expenses paid trips.

Arkelsten has meanwhile defended the trips, and a further report that she had accepted the offer of the use a complimentary BMW in October 2008.

"My judgement was and is that it was relevant," she said at Thursday lunchtime.

Sofia Arkelsten, who was appointed to replace Per Schlingmann as the Moderate Party's party secretary earlier this month, was on Wednesday criticised for accepting an invitation to the south of France from oil firm Shell.

On Thursday revelations of a further two all-expenses paid trips to Tanzania and Finland, paid for by the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (Riksförbundet för Sexuell Upplysning - RFSU) and energy giant Fortum respectively.

Arkelsten, who was a member of parliament at the time, did not apply for money from the Riksdag to fund the trips.

"It was my judgement that it was not strange that that the arrangers met the costs. With regards to this energy seminar it was not strange that they should meet the costs as I was to participate, with regards to RFSU I was invited to a programme, an activity that they had arranged," she said.

According to a poll carried out by the Sifo polling firm and published in the Aftonbladet newspaper, one in four Swedish voters want Arkelsten to resign.

The poll also revealed, however, that 55 percent of respondents think she should stay, although it was carried out when only one trip - the Shell trip to France - was known.

Moderate Party leader Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt has come out in support of the embattled Arkelsten.

"It is important to say that we have confidence in Sofia Arkelsten," Reinfeldt said on Thursday. "She has just assumed the post of party secretary and I have a great confidence in her."

Aftonbladet reported on Thursday that Arkelsten had travelled to Tanzania in February 2007 for a trip organized and paid for by Swedish Association for Sexuality Education.

Furthermore it is reported that in October 2008 she took part in a study trip to a nuclear power station in Finland. The trip was, among other things, organized with the aim of the removal of the so-called stop law which forbade the construction of new nuclear reactors.

The law was overturned by parliament in June after a shift in position by the Centre Party. Arkelsten, whose party long supported the change in the law, voted in favour.

Arkelsten has insisted that all three trips fell within the scope of her position as member of parliament.

"The trip to Tanzania was among the best journeys I have made within my political life. It was an extensive programme with opportunities to meet other politicians and carry out study visits we could never have done otherwise," she told the newspaper.

It also emerged on Wednesday that Arkelsten had resigned her post on the board of environmental consultancy Sweco, a 175,000 kronor ($25,800) per year post to which she was elected in the spring.

"There has been a discussion for some time. I went into this very openly and have considered it over the past few weeks," she told news agency TT.

"I did not know whether this type of position could be combined with the role as party secretary. I can conclude that it will be difficult, I am not going to have the time or the energy that I would like to devote to the Sweco assignment."

Public prosecutor, Gunnar Stetler has announced plans to launch a preliminary investigation into the matter and told the TT news agency on Thursday that he will consider all the revelations that have emerged in the media in recent days.

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