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NATO rejects Swedish naval unit offer

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NATO rejects Swedish naval unit offer
A British ship on patrol off the coast of Libya in June 2011
13:00 CEST+02:00
NATO has declined the offer from Sweden to provide a military unit especially trained to board naval vessels, a unit whose deployment was a condition for the Social Democrats to agree to the government's extension of the Swedish Libya mission.

“I have never felt that it has been anything else than a political negotiation between NATO and Sweden,” said Stefan Ring, expert on military strategy at the Swedish National Defence College (Försvarshögskolan) to daily Svenska Dagbladet (SvD).

According to Ring, Sweden has in informal talks voiced the wish that NATO make this demand to meet the domestic situation.

The specially trained unit of 40 soldiers was meant to assist in upholding the NATO weapons embargo on the country.

The unit’s deployment was a condition demanded by the Social Democrats before they agreed to extend Sweden’s air contribution to the NATO Libya mission by an additional three months.

In July, news agency TT reported that no other nation with ships that are part of the Libya operation wanted the Swedish unit and that the need for it was questioned.

The specially trained soldiers were meant to be deployed if a suspected weapons smuggling vessel on course for Libya would oppose inspection.

Information given by NATO shows that a boarding party never was needed and that no weapons have been discovered although about 200 ships have been boarded for inspection.

In a few cases the vessels have been ordered to turn around due to other kinds of prohibited cargo, but no crew has put up any resistance.

According to TT, some conservative Swedish politicians now see the rejection as support for their contention that the offer of the unit was simply a means for the government to save the face of Social Democrat leader Håkan Juholt.

They argue that the unit was added just so that Juholt would be able to accept the extension after his hasty statement that the Sweden's planes should return home.

However, in response to these claims, the Social Democrats have argued that a boarding party was on a list of operation shortages identified by NATO.

But according to Ring, the list of shortages is not specific to this operation.

“It is a list for NATO in general and not operation specific, that is how I have interpreted it,” he told SvD.

The Social Democrat spokesperson on foreign policy, Urban Ahlin, said to the paper that he doesn’t think Ring’s claims are accurate.

“Stefan Ring is not telling the truth,” he said to SvD.

According to Ahlin, the inability to deploy the Swedish unit is not a Swedish failure at all.

“If anything it is a NATO failure to ask for something that they then don’t manage to make use of,” he said to the paper

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