Swedish minister quits over Saudi arms plant row

Reuters , Thursday 29 Mar 2012

Swedish Defense Minister Sten Tolgfors submits resignation over reports of government sponsored help to build Saudi arms plant

Swedish Defense Minister Sten Tolgfors speaks during news conference in Stockholm Thursday, (Photo: AP).

Sweden's defence minister was forced to quit on Thursday after weeks of pressure over reports the Nordic state planned to help Saudi Arabia build a weapons plant.

Arms sales to Saudi Arabia have caused criticism in a country which prides itself on standing up for human rights, and the reports about aid for the weapons plant sparked an outcry.

Defence Minister Sten Tolgfors survived initial reports in early March by public radio about plans for a state-run defence research agency, FOI, to help Saudi Arabia build the plant by saying he had not known of them and that FOI had over-stepped its authority.

But reports of the details of the affair have continued to surface, steadily increasing pressure on him.

"He (Tolgfors) has resigned at his own request," said Roberta Alenius, spokeswoman for Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.

The minority centre-right government, which consists of four parties, has fallen behind in opinion polls after the largest opposition party the Social Democrats named a popular new leader.

Reinfeldt, head of the largest government party, the Moderates, has had to delay further income tax cuts due to a slowing economy.

He has until the next election in 2014 to claw back some popularity.

Short link: