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Outrage over Sweden's 'secret' Saudi arms plant

The Local · 7 Mar 2012, 11:33

Published: 07 Mar 2012 11:33 GMT+01:00

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“Through their actions Sweden is letting down both the democratic and liberal forces in Saudi Arabia and the west that have been fighting for human rights for years,” said Madawi al-Rasheed, a political activist and daughter of the founder of the Saudi Democratic Front, to Sveriges Radio (SR).

Following Tuesday's revelations, first reported by SR, the Swedish government has been forced to answer a storm of criticism regarding Sweden’s involvement in the project.

“I think it is incomprehensible that we have a government which helps a dictatorship to develop weapons systems and build an arms factory behind the back of the Swedish Riksdag,” said Jonas Sjöstedt, Left Party leader, to SR.

The Left Party will demand a Riksdag debate on the matter, according to the broadcaster.

However, among the parties in the ruling centre-right Alliance government, the stance is that the deal was struck under the previous Social Democrat government and signed by then-minister of defence Leni Björklund in 2005.

“This was a deal that the Social Democrat government formed with the Saudis in 2005 and we were already highly critical of it back then. We don’t think Sweden should close military deals with Saudi Arabia, which is one of the world’s fiercest dictatorships,” said Christian Democrat leader Göran Hägglund to daily Expressen.

The Liberals (Folkpartiet) have also criticized the project, with party leader Jan Björklund telling SR that the cooperation is a direct consequence of the deal that was struck between the Saudis and the Swedes in 2005.

“If one wants to change this, the cooperation should be broken off and legislation should be tightened,” said Björklund to SR.

And the party’s spokesperson on foreign affairs, Allan Widman, said the party has been critical of the cooperation from the very beginning.

“I reported Leni Björklund to the Committee on the Constitution (Konstitutionsutskottet, KU) in 2005 for entering this agreement so I have been against it from the very start,” Widman told Expressen.

However, the Social Democrats contend that the current Alliance government are responsible for the secret arms deal.

“The government had the opportunity to call off the cooperation in 2010, but chose to continue. This project that SR has detailed was initiated in 2007, during the centre-right government’s time in office. So everyone can see that it has happened during the current government’s time,” said Urban Ahlin, Social Democrat spokesperson on foreign affairs, to SR.

On Wednesday new documents were made public indicating that another government agency, the Swedish Agency for Non-proliferation and Export Controls (Inspektionen för strategiska produkter, ISP), was also involved in the project.

Minutes from a 2008 meeting reviewed by SR show that ISP chair Andreas Ekman Duse participates in a meeting between FOI and the Saudi general Nasser at the ministry of defence.

However, Ekman Duse doesn't think this puts him in a compromising situation.

Story continues below…

"I was called there by the ministry of defence and took part in this meeting on their behest to explain how Swedish export controls work. It had nothing to do with the deal itself," he told SR.

Prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said on Wednesday that the government expects its agencies to follow rules and regulations and assume that they do until otherwise is proven.

"I can understand that there are questions about the information that has come to light. But I have learned from experience to wait until we really know who has done what before we are ready to decide if someone has broken a rule and what consequences this should have," Reinfeldt said to TT, adding that he welcomes the potential investigation by the Riksdag's Committee on the Constitution.

TT/The Local/rm


The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

13:02 March 7, 2012 by Nemesis
This is a disgrace.

Those weapons should be built in Sweden and sold to Saudi Arabia to increase Swedish exports.

By building the factory in Saudi Arabia, they are exporting Swedish jobs.

The factory needs to be built in Sweden and there needs to be a stop put to exporting jobs.
13:37 March 7, 2012 by Abe L
Completely agree with #1 it's unacceptable that these potential economy contributing aspects aren't utilized to their full extend. More Swedish jobs and income should have come from this.
14:37 March 7, 2012 by zooeden
What??? Im not surprised, its only business!!!

Sweden is neutral and leans towards peace keeping... However it develops the most soffisticated weapons...

Might be seen as a great health care system... However it slashes fundings to it year by year...

Only Business
14:43 March 7, 2012 by micvau
Sweden is surpposed to be a neutral country but behind the scenes it supports illigal wars and doesn't take the neccessary measures to ensure that these weapons don't end up in the wrong hands. Sweden is the single largest exporter of weapons in the world to under developed countries so it comes as no surprise to hear that they are now helping Saudi Arabia. Pity when you think about all the innocent lives that will be lost because of this. Sweden has alot of indirect blood on it's hands dating from World War II where it supplied Hitler with the raw metals to manufacture weapons and at the same time claiming neutrality. Many good norwegians died by the Swedish governments double crossing. At least they should have the balls to stand up and admit their actions.
14:52 March 7, 2012 by johan rebel
Swedish foreign and arms expport policies have only one guiding principle: hypocrisy.

Since this has been the case for as long as anyone can remember, I don't really understand the surprise and outrage.
15:20 March 7, 2012 by chemo007
@ zooeden

the trade of blood ond human life......u r callin it business.....countries like Pakistan, India, south africa, saudi arabia and thailand'

many of these countries are always on the edge of war specially Pakistan and India.....both are the major buyers of Swedish weapons.....how ll u feel if Russia attacks Sweden then...........u know wt just blood and destruction and nothing.....these weapons are not just for show and power......Sweden is supporting Saudi Arabia just ur politicians sit in the lap of USA and its just to make USA happy because rveryone knows its just to control Iran..........Swedish saab, poltry and medicine business is gone.....nothing to do something good.....alas
15:20 March 7, 2012 by johnny1939
several years ago I was working w/ UNICEF and they had an excibit re landmine injuries and I was embarrassed to see that most of the mines came from Sweden!!
15:27 March 7, 2012 by Gustaf_Gardet
Before several years Suaid Arabia government bought weapons from USA aganist 40 billions dollar, Saudi Arabia have strong alliance with USA, what is the problem if we have the same alliance?

We are manufacturing weapons and we should sell them out or close our plants and importing them from abroad?
15:53 March 7, 2012 by Bleichroeder
What about human rights? what about the fact that women in Saudi are legally considered half a person?

WHERE ARE ARE THE "DO-GOODERS". Where is the flotilla to Saudi? Where is the flotilla to Syria? Where are the big demonstrations?

Oh, I forgot, Israel and Jews are not involved.
19:11 March 7, 2012 by Children Of Adam
I agree with Gustaf.

companies are doing business, it is not their business to look about human rights. For human rights and things like we have UN, but what can UN do?

US has attacked Iraq for its oil and killed thousands of innocents people tortured them in prisons, what UN or human rights did to them?

I would like to see Sweden sell more products, it is good for business, if the Europe stops producing then soon Asian would buy all your companies and would enslave the bloodies . Indian Tata wants to buy Saab? do you want to sell everything?
20:44 March 7, 2012 by stevo1
so it's ok to sell weapons to democracy's who invade other countries for oil and resources?

Good on Sweden for exploiting a market that will essentially bring more export dollars into this country.

BTW, even Australia sells yellow cake (Uranium) to India (and India has not signed the no nuclear weapons agreement), which it takes from National Parks zoned for no mining.

Every country does the dirty, so why should Sweden be any different.

Sweden is just tapping into a monopoly the USA has held for years.
22:12 March 7, 2012 by anticommie
Welcome to Sweden were we build the weapons to kill brown people!!!
23:24 March 7, 2012 by coldjava
It's all about oil oil oil!
04:31 March 8, 2012 by dennis_from_red_deer_ab_canada
Until the Assange affair, I always assumed Sweden was a fair, neutral country that had high principles and minded their own business. After the Assange affair, I have followed Sweden's dealings more closely. And Sweden doesn't stand up to close scrutiny.

We have a saying when something isn't right. The saying is "There's something rotten in Denmark". I don't know where it came from, but I've heard it since I was a child. From now on, when an incident seems strange, I'll be saying, "There's something rotten in Sweden".

I now believe Assange must be innocent, and most Swedish officials are liars.
09:02 March 8, 2012 by rise
Back when I did my military service in the years of 1994-95 the landmine Truppmina 12 was being called Invandrar-TV (Immigrants' TV). And sure the look of the Truppmina 12 actually reminds of the small TV people are using in their caravans or such. Make what you will of it. ;)
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