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Social Democrat asked US for Afghan aid: report

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Social Democrat asked US for Afghan aid: report
17:16 CET+01:00
The Social Democrats' foreign policy spokesman has denied a report from the US embassy in Stockholm alleging that he asked for American assistance to boost support for the Swedish mission in Afghanistan.

The report alleged that Social Democratic foreign policy spokesman Urban Ahlin wanted help with getting an Afghan minister to come to Sweden's parliament, the Riksdag, to talk about the Swedish Armed Forces' humanitarian contributions, according to Aftonbladet on Wednesday.

Ahlin has denied that he would have made any request for help to get an Afghan minister to come to Sweden.

"The idea is absurd. It does not work that way. I am not so dumb that I would believe that a Swedish opposition politician could get an Afghan minister to come here," he told news agency TT on Wednesday.

The appearance of the Afghan minister would have facilitated a decision on extending the forces' mission, according to the embassy.

A meeting between Ahlin and the US ambassador's second-in-command Robert Silverman took place on January 17th, 2008. Also in attendance was Moderate Göran Lennmarker, then-chairman of the Riksdag's foreign affairs committee.

Ahlin recounted that before the meeting, he was in the US and was upset about how the American media constantly talked about how the US would win the war in Afghanistan instead of how the Afghans should do it.

On February 26th and 27th, Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta came to Sweden. In Stockholm, he first met Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, then visited Afghans living in Sweden, met the Riksdag's foreign affairs committee, spoke at a seminar and attended a dinner with the Nordic foreign and defense political secretaries of state.

Ahlin believes that the US embassy already knew at the meeting with him that the Afghan minister was on his way to Sweden and that in its report to Washington, it took the opportunity to try to emphasise its own importance.

The report added that Ahlin has good contacts and is willing to play a useful role concerning Afghanistan and Kosovo. Ahlin does think there is something odd about the Americans' view of him given that he supports the Swedish mission in Afghanistan.

"I am a politician, damn it, and a part of the decision-making authority," he said.

The report about the meeting wth Ahlin also suggested the "opportunity" to send Sweden Gripen fighter planes to Afghanistan. Ahlin is reported to have said that the Social Democrats told the Moderate-led Alliance government that they would not agree to such a thing.

The Afghans would not be able to distinguish Swedish planes from planes from countries that are involved in combat operations in Iraq, the report said.

Ahlin confirms that the account is correct, but did not comment further on the matter.

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said that he did not know if anyone in the government asked the Social Democrats to send planes to Afghanistan, adding that he himself has not done so.

"I am not aware of us posing such question to the Social Democrats," Reinfeldt told TT in connection with a visit to Porjus in northern Sweden.

When asked if the goverment wants to send Gripen planes to Afghanistan, Reinfeldt replied, "Not that I know of. However, we can sometimes lead a dialogue with other parties on different factual matters without having a ready position. I do not know which contacts we have had or whether they have been appropriate."

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