Bildt answers questions about Saudi weapons deal

“No weapons factory, no scandal.” With those words Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt ended the parliamentary debate into the controversial issue of Sweden's secret involvement in plans to build a weapons factory in Saudi Arabia.

Bildt said that the plans had been distorted in the media and that it never involved an actual weapons factory.

“The claim is that this was about building a factory. That is incorrect and an illusion,” he said. “This was about a facility to restore and modify. No new weapons will be manufactured here.”

When asked if it is appropriate for Sweden to export weapons to dictatorships Bildt answered that there are laws in place to make sure that everything is done correctly.

He added that it is vital for Sweden to maintain a good relationship with Saudi Arabia and that no laws were broken when the deal was made.

But the opposition was not convinced.

Social Democrat Urban Ahlin asked why the Defence Minister Sten Tolgfors had to resign if no rules had been broken. He called the deal troubling and called for tighter legislation regulating weapons export to non-democracies.

The issue also caused one Alliance party, the Liberal Party, to call for an end of all weapons export to dictatorships.

“Saudi Arabia has no freedom of speech, political opposition parties are not allowed and there is no such thing as freedom of religion,” said Allan Wedman, Liberal Party spokesman on defence issues.

“When you see the agreement from 2005 you have to ask yourself what are the security political interests that Sweden and Saudi Arabia share enter such an agreement?”