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Swedish Defence Minister Sten Tolgfors quits over Saudi arms scandal

Sten Tolgfors has resigned as defence minister after Swedish public radio unearthed plans between Stockholm and Riyadh to build a weapons plant in Saudi Arabia.

Sten tolgfors sweden 2012 03 29 Enlarge
Sten Tolgfors defended the plans, saying they were in line with military cooperation deals signed by Stockholm and Riyadh in 2005 and renewed in 2010. (JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images)

LONDON – Swedish Defence Minister Sten Tolgfors has resigned following criticism over leaked plans to build a weapons plant in Saudi Arabia.

Tolgfors came under pressure to quit from the press and Sweden’s left-wing opposition in early March after public radio revealed confidential plans for the country’s Defence Research Agency to help Riyadh build a facility for making weapons, including missiles and torpedoes, the BBC reports.

The plant has not yet been built, and Sweden has no ban on weapons exports to the Gulf kingdom, but the secretive nature of the deal – which Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt later confirmed had been signed with Riyadh in 2005 – caused controversy.

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Swedish radio said part of the so-called Project Simoom involved the creation in 2009 of a shell company, SSTI, to handle dealings with Riyadh after the government felt its defence agency was “legally hindered” from continuing on with the agreement, the Agence France Presse reports.

SSTI was reportedly provided with an export permit to purchase equipment for bombs, missiles and other weapons.

Tolgfors defended the plans, saying they were in line with military cooperation deals signed by Stockholm and Riyadh in 2005 and renewed in 2010, according to the Associated Press.

But opposition parties accused the government of attempting to cover up its involvement in the Saudi deal, while peace activists said Sweden should not be concluding military agreements with non-democratic regimes. 

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/120329/swedish-defence-minister-sten-tolgfors-quits-over-saudi-arms-scandal