Swedish Government Summons Israeli Ambassador Over Iran Sanctions Row

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt referred to a report in Haaretz, claiming Sweden objects to new Iran sanctions for fear of losing lucrative telecommunications deal, as 'anonymous slander' originating from Israel's foreign ministry.

Israel’s Ambassador to Sweden Isaac Bachman has been summoned to a meeting at the Swedish Foreign Ministry in Stockholm to accept an official protest from the Swedish government about a report on Sunday about Swedish objections to new Iran sanctions, which was attributed to Israeli Foreign Ministry officials. 

The report in Sunday’s Haaretz stated Sweden was opposing new sanctions for fear of losing a lucrative deal for Swedish communications company Ericsson. The report said senior Foreign Ministry officials had received information to that effect from officials of several leading EU nations.

Israel's ambassador met Monday afternoon with the Swedish Deputy Foreign Minister Frank Belfrage, a source in the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said. Belfrage asked Bachman to explain the leak to Haaretz. The ambassador replied that this was an unauthorized anonymous leak that does not represent the Foreign Ministry's stand.

Earlier Monday, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt referred to the Haaretz report as “anonymous slander.” He made the remark upon arriving in Luxembourg, where the 27 EU foreign ministers are meeting Monday to decide on whether to broaden the sanctions against Tehran.

In a videoed interview posted on the European Council website, Bildt denied Sweden opposed new sanctions.

“We have been interested in having an opening for the humanitarian things, for medicine and food,” Bildt said. “I don’t see the point in starving ordinary Iranians because of the fault of their government.”

Bildt decried the Haaretz report, which he said was “fed by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”

“I don’t think anonymous slander is the way we should conduct relations between responsible countries,” Bildt said. “I think it says more about those responsible for that slander than anything else.”

Following publication on Sunday, Bildt was sharply criticized by Swedish opposition parties. He responded to the critiques in media interviews in Sweden.

“We intend to get clarifications from Israel regarding these leaks,” Bildt said, in an interview with the Swedish newspaper Expressen. “I see this as unacceptable diplomatic conduct. Sending officials to anonymously sling mud in the media is an ancient art. I thought that they [Israel] had stopped that.

“But all this is science fiction. I have no idea where they came up with this contract with Ericsson,” he said.