foreign affairs

Social Democrats u-turn over Libya

3:53 min

Sweden's largest opposition party, the Social Democrats have backed down in their opposition to extending the Swedish involvement in the UN actions in Libya.

In a signed article in today's Dagens Nyheter newspaper, foreign policy spokesman Urban Ahlin says the party now wants Sweden to be involved in maintaining the weapons embargo against the north African country, and is ready to send the Swedish Navy to watch the Libyan coastline.

The Social Democrats also want Sweden to get involved in helping the civilian population in the country, and increase aid to those on the run from Colonel Gaddafi. They want to bring back Swedish Gripen planes however, saying Gaddafi has no airforce to speak of, and maintaning the no-fly zone is now less important.

Party leader Håkan Juholt had previously said he wanted Swedish involvement in the mission to end in July. Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Juholt said;

"We are still committed to our earlier stance, that we must support the Libyan people. We are committed to ending  the Jas Gripen deployment  after the previously agreed three-month time period, and we are still committed to having broader engagement (in Libya) than just militarily."

Government politicians have criticised the Social Democrats' latest comments, with Liberal party defence spokesman Allan Widman saying the Social Democrats have now "adopted every possible opinion on the issue in less that two months".

He told Radio Sweden that today's annnouncement by the Social Democrats was a way over re-entering negotiation;

"I think that the social democrats want help to get out of the situation in which they have put themselves. I think it is a cry for negotiation."