Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sweden's Saab Sold Arms to Saudi Arabia

Saab Bofors Dynamics will neither confirm nor deny the report, which surfaced late Thursday night on the website of the financial daily Dagens Industri (DI). Saab Group spokesperson Peter Liander also remained tightlipped about the deal.

“We can neither confirm nor deny that we’ve sold weapons to Saudi Arabia,” he told the TT news agency.

Andreas Ekman Duse, the head of the Swedish Agency for Non-Proliferation and Export Controls (Inspektionen för strategiska produkter - ISP), told TT that he can’t comment on the matter and directed all questions to the company.

According to DI, Saab announced it had received two export orders in December 2007, one of which involved the BILL 2 anti-tank missile. At the time, Saab chose not to release the name of the buyer.

But several independent sources told the newspaper that the buyer is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, marking the first time that a Swedish defence company has sold combat materiel to the country.

In the wake of the revelations, opinion remains divided over exactly who within the Swedish government is responsible for the matter.

A spokesperson for defence minister Sten Tolgfors told TT the deal falls under the purview of trade minister Ewa Björling. But Monica Ohlsson, a spokesperson for the trade minister, claimed the matter was the sole responsibility of the independent ISP, which makes assessments of individual deals.

“ISP can also decide to pass along matters of fundamental importance to the government, and for those sort of matters Carl Bildt is responsible,” said Ohlsson, adding that Björling hadn’t received any information about a deal between Saab and Saudi Arabia.

Attempts by TT to get a comment from Carl Bildt have so far been unsuccessful.

Anna Ek, secretary general of Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society (SPAS), said that the revelations show it’s high time to put democratic criteria into Swedish regulations on weapons exports.

“We have long suspected that exports to Saudi Arabia, which have increased from year to year, will pave the way for wide-ranging weapons exports,” she told TT.

Left Party leader Lars Ohly said that, if the information about the Saudi arms deal is true, that is a “clear breach of a Riksdag decision”.

“If the government thinks we should have these types of deals with one of the worst dictatorial regimes in the world, then they ought to defend it out in the open,” said Ohly.

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