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Sweden to end defence agreement with Saudi Arabia

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Baku, March 11, AZERTAC.

Sweden will end a defence agreement with Saudi Arabia after heavy domestic criticism and a diplomatic spat, the defence minister told the state broadcaster SVT on Tuesday.

The framework memorandum provides for the supply of military systems and training and transfers of technology, but Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist said not much of that cooperation existed any more.

"The military cooperation is, in practice, non-existent," he told SVT when asked why Sweden would end the military agreement.

The decision came after Saudi Arabia blocked a speech that Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom was scheduled to hold on Monday at a meeting of the Arab League in Cairo.

The meeting later agreed a resolution denouncing remarks by Wallstrom to the Swedish parliament, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

It was not immediately clear which remarks were being denounced, but Wallstrom has told parliament that women's rights are violated in Saudi Arabia, has criticised the flogging of a Saudi blogger, and has called the country a dictatorship.

The defence accord netted 4.8 billion crowns ($561 million) for Swedish firms in 2011-2014. It was first signed in 2005 by a previous Social Democratic government and was renewed by a centre-right government in 2010.

It needs to be cancelled in May in order not to be extended for another five years.

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