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Swedish house backs Libya involvement

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Swedish house backs Libya involvement
18:30 CET+01:00
The Swedish government can count on the broad support in parliament to send JAS Gripen aircraft to assist the UN-backed Libyan operation, with only the Sweden Democrats expressing a dissenting opinion.

The last Swedish fighter aircraft saw action was almost 50 years ago.

It is reported that NATO may soon approach Sweden with to participate in the international effort against the Libyan regime. The defence alliance however spent the day discussing which nation was best equipped to lead the operation.

"We must wait and see what NATO is up to. This is of significance," foreign minister Carl Bildt said.

If NATO is unable to agree Bildt has not ruled out Sweden being able to take part in an operation led by a group of countries, including France, the United States and Britain, although Sweden would be in unfamiliar position.

The first few days of the air operation against the rule of Muammar Qaddafi have been led by a coalition led by France, Britain and the US. France and Turkey are said to be opposed to NATO taking over the operation.

For Sweden it would be easier to take part within a NATO-led effort, despite not being a formal member of the alliance as the military is familiar with procedures following previous cooperation.

Swedish participation would require a swift decision in parliament and according to a review of the positions of parliamentary parties, a government proposition would receive the broad support of the Riksdag.

The Social Democrats have expressed their firm support for a Swedish contribution to the operation.

"For me, it is irrelevant if the request comes from France, the United Nations or from NATO. The UN has called for the mission," said the party's foreign policy spokesperson Urban Ahlin.

Left Party leader Lars Ohly said that he was cautiously positive to sending the JAS Gripen fighter into combat.

The Sweden Democrats, who currently hold 19 votes in parliament, expressed their opposition to a Swedish contribution to the military effort preferring instead to spend the money on measures to address a feared refugee crisis.

The last time Swedish fighter aircraft participated in battle was almost 50 years ago, when J 29 "Flying Barrel" planes fought in the Congo in the early 60's.

The Swedish Armed Forces have informed the government that it can send up to eight JAS Gripen planes to Libya.

The aircraft form part of the Nordic battle group, the most well-trained air force unit in Sweden, and fully compatible with NATO.

According to Anders Silwer at the armed forces, the unit could be deployed to the combat zone - for example at air bases in Sicily and Crete - "days" after a political decision.

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