Sweden seeks to block tough EU Iran sanctions

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt has long championed diplomacy over sanctions as the method to deal with Iran and Syria.

October 15, 2012 02:29
1 minute read.
Iranian handles money at bazaar

Iranian handles money at bazaar 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The Swedish government tossed a wrench into the EU process to impose a set of robust new sanctions on Iran in order to protect a business deal between Swedish telecommunications giant Ericsson and Tehran.

Haaretz reported on Sunday that an Israeli Foreign Ministry diplomat said, “We know that in Sweden they fear that if the deal between Ericsson and Iran is canceled this could have implications for the company’s other deals. The Swedes fear that other countries with problematic human rights records such as China will hear about the cancellation and worry about their ties with Ericsson.”

The European Union is slated on Monday to pass a new package of gas, financial and shipping sanctions.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt has long championed diplomacy over sanctions as the method to deal with Iran and Syria. Earlier this year he went to great lengths to prevent the EU from forcing Ericsson to pull the plug on its contracts with Syria’s regime.

According to Haaretz, Israeli diplomats, citing their European diplomatic counterparts, questioned whether Bildt had “personal interests” in Iran that were impeding his capacity to move forward with sanctions.

The Foreign Ministry official told Haaretz that some European governments were extremely upset with the Swedes. The major powers in Western Europe – Germany, France and the United Kingdom – were named. The paper noted that a top-level German diplomat told an Israeli diplomat that Sweden’s conduct consists of “embarrassing, absurd and illogical foot-dragging.”

The regimes in both Tehran and Damascus have used Western communications technology to suppress pro-democracy movements.

The German-Finnish company Siemens-Nokia provided surveillance equipment to Iran that was used to disrupt and monitor the communication of proreform demonstrators in 2009.

Bildt rejected the contention in March that he sought to protect Sweden’s economic interests at the expense of human rights, terming his critics “ignorant.”

Reuters cited diplomats who noted that it was “very unusual for Sweden, known as a staunch defender of human rights, to block sanctions, or for one member state to act alone to do so.”

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