Sweden ends Saudi military ties over human rights issues

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Loefven gives a press conference at the Rosenbad government office in Stockholm, October 27, 2014 (AFP Photo/Jonathan Nackstrand)

Stockholm (AFP) - Sweden announced Tuesday it will not renew a military cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia, effectively ending defence ties due to mounting concerns over rights issues.

"It will be broken off," Prime Minister Stefan Loefven said on public radio of a 2005 Saudi-Swedish agreement.

The Social-Democrat premier spoke a day after Sweden's Foreign Minister Margot Wallstroem accused Saudi Arabia of blocking her speech at an Arab League meeting.

Saudi Arabia is the third largest non-Western buyer of Swedish arms. In 2014, Riyadh bought equipment worth 338 million kroner (37 million euros, $39 million).

The deal, which was due for renewal for another five years in May, has come under fire within Loefven's Social Democrats, while their Green Party coalition partners oppose it categorically.

Wallstroem has rarely commented on Saudi Arabia but in January she slammed the kingdom's treatment of blogger Raef Badawi, who had been sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for insulting Islam.

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