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LIBYA

Sweden reaches new deal on Libya mission

The Swedish government has reached an agreement with the Social Democrats and the Green Party to extend the country's military mission in Libya.

Sweden reaches new deal on Libya mission

According to the agreement, which was unveiled at a press conference on Wednesday morning, Sweden will contribute five JAS Gripen fighter planes as well as a naval boarding team.

“We’re going to present a bill tomorrow morning,” foreign minister Carl Bildt said during a Wednesday morning press conference announcing the agreement.

“There will be more surveillance operations that what we’ve been able to achieve so far.”

He added that the Swedish mission in Libya could continue even after a ceasefire.

Bildt was joined by Social Democrat foreign policy spokesperson Urban Ahlin and Green Party spokesperson Åsa Romson to announce details of the agreement.

“Most people clearly believe that today is not the day to stop supporting Libya’s civilians and it’s not the day to end the no-fly zone,” said Romson.

“It’s time to increase the humanitarian mission and help with the refuges situation.”

Exactly how large the boarding team will be is up to the Swedish Armed Forces (Försvarsmakten) to determine, as is exactly which type of soldiers are best suited for the job.

On Tuesday, Left Party leader Lars Ohly released preliminary details about the agreement following a briefing with Bildt, even though his party would not be a part of the deal.

He said the Swedish team of soldiers tasked with boarding ships would fall under British command.

According to Ahlin, the force could be in place within a few days following a formal Riksdag decision on the matter.

The current Swedish mission in Libya consists of a squadron of eight Gripen fighters sent to enforce a UN-mandated no-fly zone which came into force on March 17th.

Officials from NATO, which took over responsibility for the foreign military mission in Libya on March 31st, have asked the Swedish government to extend the Gripen surveillance mission.

The deal comes following weeks of uncertainty about whether the government could strike a deal with the Social Democrats after an April 28th interview with the TT news agency in which party leader Håkan Juholt ruled out keeping the Sweden’s Gripen aircraft in Libya.

On May 18th, the party proposed extending Sweden’s military presence in Libya, but with a naval contribution rather than simply supporting the no-fly zone.

On Monday, however, Ahlin said the Social Democrats were open to allowing one or two planes to remain in Libya.

The agreement means that during a visit to Brussels on Wednesday, defence minister Sten Tolgfors can tell his NATO colleagues exactly what Sweden is prepared to offer.

NATO has proposed extending the current military mission in Libya another 90 days from July 1st.

An extension of the mission requires a new bill to be presented in the Riksdag before June 22nd.

The previous agreement on the current mission included all political parties except the far-right Sweden Democrats.

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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.