Swedish PM under fire over Saudi arms deal

Swedish PM under fire over Saudi arms deal
Stefan Löfven at a party conference last year. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT
The Swedish government was on Friday coming under increased pressure over a military arms deal with Saudi Arabia, as three Social Democrat MPs called for Prime Minister Stefan Löfven to end the agreement.

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Löfven has previously stated he wants to renegotiate the deal, but three of his own MPs argued on Friday that Sweden should pull out completely.

Johan Büser, Sara Karlsson and Lawen Redar wrote in a debate article in newspaper Dagens Nyheter: “It is not defensible to export weapons to a cruel regime”.

“Weapon trade and the arming of rogue states can hardly be legitimized through the argument that trade is good,” they said.

The Swedish government has faced criticism of its arms deal with Saudi Arabia before.

Hans Linde of the Left Party said in a parliament debate as Foreign Minister Margot Wallström presented Sweden's new foreign policy earlier in February: “It's a military co-operation agreement with one of the countries in the world that most clearly and systematically violates women's rights.”

In November 2005 the then Social Democrat government signed a so called memorandum of understanding with Saudi Arabia. The deal was extended by the conservative right-wing alliance government in 2010 and will be extended for another five years in 2015 unless either party chooses to end it.

Saudi Arabia is among the countries the Swedish government wants to target in a new export strategy for the period up to 2020. The list also includes the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

"We believe that trade and contacts with countries is a way to promote human rights. What we are doing now, unlike the previous government, is that we will highlight the issue of sustainable business and human rights at a completely different level," Sweden's enterprise minister Mikael Damberg told the Dagens Nyheter daily earlier this month.