Löfven: Swedish companies need to be in Iran
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has been criticised for his trip to Iran over the weekend, but he told Swedish Radio that Swedish companies need to be in Iran, because it means "jobs at home."
During his two-day visit to Iran, prime minister Löfven met with president Hassan Rouhani, but he also signed a trade agreement on IT, opened a new Swedish export office in Tehran, and visited a factory outside the capital, where lorries from the Swedish heavy vehicles company Scania are being put together.
It is the first time a Swedish prime minister is in Iran to visit an Iranian president, and the trip follows the UN decision a year ago to lift the international sanctions against the country after a nuclear agreement was settled. And the interest among Swedish companies is big.
"There are many companies that are here and want to do their part. And Sweden and Swedish companies ought to be here. We are talking about jobs at home. And it is important for Iran's development to go in the right direction," Löfven told Swedish Radio.
A stumbling block for Swedish companies wanting to grow in Iran is that Swedish and European banks hesitate to offer loans to bigger business deals, for fear of being punished by the US, which still has some sanctions left against Iran. This is a problem for Sweden and for the whole of Europe said Stefan Löfven.
"We, along with several other countries, are mentioning this all the time, because we are not the only ones being affected. We need a change on this," he said.
In his talks with president Rouhani, Löfven brought up the situation in Syria, where Iran is supporting the Assad government. Löfven said he stressed the importance of finding a solution to the conflict.
"We are positive in that the fighting at least is not as heavy any more. But Iran needs to work towards a real ceasefire in order to negotiate a peace agreement as well," said Löfven.
The Swedish prime minister has been getting questions from home about how he has dealt with the lack of human rights in Iran, but he was not willing to go into details on that, when Swedish Radio's reporter asked.
"I will not go into details about that, but we have brought up the issues that are relevant and I will continue to do so," he said.
Löfven did however confirm that he had brought up the situation of the imprisoned Iranian scientist, who has a permanent residency permit in Sweden, where he is conducting research into disaster medicine at the Karolinska Institute.
The man is accused by the Iranian regime of espionage and is risking the death penalty. The human rights organisation Amnesty has demanded his immediate release, as it means that he has not been charged for anything else than exercising his freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.