Sweden's Bildt brushes off report he passed information to U.S.

STOCKHOLM Fri Mar 15, 2013 7:36am EDT

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt addresses the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York, September 28, 2012. REUTERS/Keith Bedford

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt addresses the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York, September 28, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Keith Bedford

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STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt was accused on Friday of passing secret information on government talks and nuclear policy to the United States in the 1970s - but he dismissed the report as "banal" and "hardly sensational".

Newspaper Aftonbladet said documents from anti-secrecy website Wikileaks showed Bildt gave confidential details to a U.S. envoy about negotiations to form a coalition government in 1976.

The information also included details about the Swedish government's attitude at the time to a possible referendum on nuclear power, the newspaper added.

Bildt, a high profile former prime minister and Balkan war mediator, stopped short of denying he had ever passed on any information.

But he wrote on his blog: "Hardly sensational. Quite normal diplomatic reporting. Very banal information ... And nothing which deals with things that can be called 'secret'."

Ambassadors and envoys regularly get briefings by officials in host countries to keep up to date on political affairs.

Bildt was an aide to one of the parties involved in the 1976 talks.

Another newspaper, Expressen, reported in February last year WikiLeaks was poised to out Bildt as a U.S. spy - but he dismissed that report as a smear campaign.

Expressen said Wikileaks would release the information to punish the Swedish government if the website's founder Julian Assange was ever extradited from Britain to Sweden and on to the United States.

Assange has taken refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since June to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sex crime charges. He says he fears the case is a ruse to get him to Washington to be prosecuted for his organization's leaking of hundreds of thousands of sensitive U.S. documents.

Bildt, 63, has been foreign minister since the current center-right coalition government returned to power in 2006.

Aftonbladet, which tends broadly to support the opposition, said in a leader article Bildt's reported actions in the 1970s were "careless" given Swedish-U.S. relations had only years previously been tense over the Vietnam war.

(Reporting by Patrick Lannin; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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