Swedish agency helping Saudi build arms unit
DPA STOCKHOLM A SWEDISH government agency has been involved in plans to help Saudi Arabia build an arms factory, Swedish Radio news reported on Tuesday, citing classified documents. The report said the Swedish Defence Research Agency had, since 2007, been involved in planning a factory in Saudi Arabia to make explosives and fuel for anti-tank missiles.
Saudi Arabia has, in recent years, sought to develop its own arms industry. The plant is part of that strategy.
Defence Minister Sten Tolgfors said in a blog entry that the official secrecy act prevented him from confirming or denying the report.
He said any cooperation with Saudi Arabia could be traced to a 2005 agreement on military cooperation signed by the former Social Democratic government.
Gustaf Fridolin of the opposition Greens requested that parliament’s committee on the constitution should investigate the defence minister’s actions. Fridolin warned that the plans “risked harming Sweden’s reputation,” citing Saudi Arabia’s poor human rights record and authoritarian rule. Other critics included the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society,which recently criticized Swedish arms sales to Saudi Arabia. In 2011, those were worth about $429 million.
Foreign Minister Carl Bildt told Swedish Radio news that the 2005 agreement had been reviewed when a new Swedish government took officein 2006, and said the plan was in line with Swedish rules and legislation.
The pact has since been extended, although two of the juniorparties in the centreright coalition said they wanted to end it. No construction work has begun onthe plant, which was envisaged to consist of up to 35 buildings.