Swedish top-level talks on Afghanistan
Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt says he has had good talks with the opposition leader Mona Sahlin of the Social Democrats Mona Sahlin on the future of Swedish troops in Afghanistan – and will continue discussions next week.
The center-right four-party government wants to keep the 500 soldiers there without setting a date for their withdrawal.
The opposition coalition of the Social Democrats, the Greens and the Left Party have earlier agreed to call for the beginning of a withdrawal next year – ending in 2013 – with the Left Party agreeing to this compromise although it really feels that the Swedish troops should be pulled out immediately.
The minority government wants to reach broad agreement over party lines – without having to depend on the votes of the new anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats now in parliament for the first time. This party has opposed the presence of Swedish troops in Afghanistan, but the opposition has pledged not to seek their support on any issue – including Afghanistan.
Also attending this top-level meeting, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt says he has communicated with his counterpart in Finland that Sweden hopes to see continued Swedish-Finnish military co-operation patrolling regions in northern Afghanistan which have come under increasing attacks from Taliban forces.
Meanwhile, news reports from Afghanistan say more Swedish soldiers have come under fire. This follows new reports of two Swedes wounded by gun fire on Monday and the fifth Swede killed over the weekend when his armoured vehicle hit a road mine.