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LIBYA

Sweden releases Qaddafi aircraft pics

The Swedish Armed Forces have released photographs, which it claims indicates that Muammar Qaddafi still retains several fighter aircraft.

Sweden releases Qaddafi aircraft pics

The fighter planes are reported to be standing at an airport in the capital Tripoli.

As the UN-backed Libya mission enters its second month, an opinion poll shows that Swedes are split on the issue of continuing involvement in the effort.

Anders Silwer of the Swedish air force said that the pictures show, that while Qaddafi is not using the planes, they remain intact while pointing out that probably pose no threat.

“There is probably a bomb crater made in the runway so that they can’t be used.”

They would otherwise have been bombed directly, he said.

Silwer explained that to ensure that the aircraft do not become serviceable again, close monitoring is required and argued that Sweden’s contribution remains important in that respect.

“We are responsible for about a third of the intelligence resources accounted for by military aviation,” he says.

The Armed Forces have previously only released a few individual photos from the Libya operation.

Questions emerged on Friday about how recently the pictures had been taken, with the Dagens Nyheter daily reporting that there were distinct similarities to the pictures in the Google Earth application.

Neither the armed forces nor Google were able to confirm to the newspaper when exactly the pictures were taken.

The Liberal Party defence policy makers Allan Widman however stated that there is no reason to doubt the Armed Forces’ assessment that the pictures show Libyan air force assets.

“If it is Libyan air force, it is clear that as long as Gaddafi is in power, he will have or acquire such resources,” Widman said.

Widman however did not want the pictures to be taken as evidence that the mandate for the Swedish Gripen planes to maintain the no-fly zone remained unfinished.

“That assessment has to be for the UN Security Council to do. And if it is felt that the mission is not complete then we should follow,” he said.

The Swedish parliamentary mandate for the Libya deployment expires on July 1st.

Social Democrat leader Håkan Juholt has said he finds it very hard to imagine that the mandate would be extended, provoking a storm of criticism from the centre-right parties and from some fellow Social Democrats.

Swedish public opinion is divided on the issue, according to a survey published by Novus on Friday, with 43 percent supporting the withdrawal of the planes on July 1st.

Some 38 percent of Swedes supported extending the military operation, while the rest remained uncertain.

Novus interviewed 1000 people from May 5th to 10th.

The survey showed that Hakan Juholt had the support among the party’s own supporters for his argument to bring the planes home, with 57 percent in favour, while 28 percent backed an extension after July 1st.

A majority of supporters of all the centre-right Alliance coalition parties are in favour of extending the mandate. Some 77 percent of Centre Party voters supported continuing the mission.

The least support for an extension of the mission is among supporters of the Left Party and Sweden Democrats, with a majority in favour of withdrawal.

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CORRUPTION

Fresh bribery claims in Swedish jet scandal

Swedish defence firm Saab paid around a billion kronor to shady middlemen as part of a controversial deal to sell fighter jets to South Africa, according to documents obtained by a Swedish tabloid.

Fresh bribery claims in Swedish jet scandal
A Jas 39 Gripen jet flies above Cape Town in South Africa. Photo: AP Photo/mbr/The Star

Saab's sale of 28 Jas 39 Gripen aircraft – later reduced to 26 – to South Africa has been tainted by scandal and corruption allegations ever since it took place back in 1999.

The Swedish defence giant has always denied any wrongdoing in the deal which was mainly carried out by a subsidiary owned by Saab and British BAE and has said that no evidence of any suspect deals has turned up in its internal investigations.

But according to Sweden's Expressen newspaper, internal BAE documents handed to the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), a UK-based government authority that investigates fraud and corruption, show that money was paid out to shady agents suspected of being involved in bribery.

According to the paperwork, 7.25 percent (or 13 billion kronor – $1.58 billion) of the total sales of the Gripen planes and the British Hawk aircraft was potentially handed over to secret agents. According to Expressen, the claims formed part of a UK investigation into bribery allegations linked to this cash.

Other classified documents published by the newspaper on Thursday suggest that BAE's former head of marketing for South Africa and Asia, Allan MacDonald, told SFO officers several years ago that Saab had been kept informed of all costs and the agents involved.

“I gave them more information than they had ever got before and they were informed about the arrangements with the agents on chief executive level. They knew,” the documents suggest he said.

In a statement to Expressen published on Thursday, Saab's press spokesman Sebastian Carlsson dismissed the claims that almost a billion kronor was handed to agents, but did not deny that large payouts were made.

“There's nothing strange about a person receiving compensation for the work they do. So I mean, that's not the problem, if there is a problem. The problem would in that case be what a person does,” he told the newspaper.

“If it was 7.5 or 6.5 or 4.5 or 10.5 percent [is irrelevant]. That's nothing, that's what it was like 'in the good old days'. But I can tell you that if back then you had these kinds of commission-based contracts in the export industry, the sums could sometimes be high,” he added.

Saab is one of the world's leading defence and security companies and has around 14,700 staff around the world. It is not connected to Saab Automobile.

Earlier this year it was ranked as one of the European arms companies best at tackling corruption by the Transparency International thinktank.