The Swedish government on Thursday distanced itself from a statement by its ambassador to Israel, in which she criticized a newspaper article claiming Israel Defense Forces troops killed Palestinian youths and harvested their organs.

"The condemnation was solely the judgment of the embassy [in Tel Aviv], and designed for an Israeli audience," said a statement released Thursday by the Swedish Foreign Ministry.

"The article in the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet is as shocking and appalling to us Swedes, as it is to Israeli citizens," said Ambassador Elisabet Borsiin Bonnier on Wednesday.

"Just as in Israel, freedom of the press prevails in Sweden," Bonnier said. "However, freedom of the press and freedom of expression are freedoms which carry a certain responsibility."

The article in Sweden's biggest-selling newspaper was first reported internationally by Haaretz.com on Tuesday, and has sparked fierce widespread debate both in Sweden and abroad. The article claims that as far back as 1992, the IDF was taking organs from Palestinian youths it killed, and also mentions an ongoing U.S. crime investigation involving members of the American Jewish community.

Swedish opposition leaders on Thursday slammed Borsiin Bonnier for calling the article "shocking and appalling," and accused her of interfering with freedom of speech.

Green Party spokesman Per Gahrton said Borsiin Bonnier should be recalled and taught the basics of Swedish freedom of speech. The Swedish Foreign Ministry declined to comment on her statement.

The editor of Aftonbladet on Wednesday hit back hard at both Bonnier and Israeli critics for attacking his paper's coverage, and accused them of hiding behind claims of anti-Semitism to avoid the subject raised in the article. Israel condemned the report as blood libel.

"It's deeply unpleasant and sad to see such a strong propaganda machine using centuries-old anti-Semitic images in an apparent attempt to get an obviously topical issue off the table," said editor Jan Helin.

Helin accused the Swedish ambassador of "a flagrant assault on freedom of speech" for her criticism, and rejected any suggestion of anti-Semitism by his paper. He called the article an opinion piece that raises questions about an Israeli link in an American investigation of a New Jersey crime ring. Among the suspects in that case is an American Jew who has been accused of selling organs.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Thursday harshly criticized the article calling it "illegitimate" and saying that it "has no place, not even in a democracy that protects freedom of speech".