DUBAI, April 14 Saudi Arabia said on Saturday it
had no plans to acquire an arms factory from Sweden, weeks after
the Swedish defence minister was forced to resign over reports
Stockholm planned to help the conservative Muslim state build
such a plant.
"The Saudi Defence Ministry stressed that it has not signed
any agreement with Sweden for a project of this nature in the
past nor is there any project in such a field currently," the
state-run Saudi Press Agency said, citing an unnamed ministry
Sweden's Defence Minister Sten Tolgfors resigned last month
after reports about the weapons plant sparked an outcry in a
country which prides itself on defending and promoting human
rights around the world.
Tolgfors had weathered initial reports that said a state-run
defence research agency planned to help Saudi Arabia build the
plant, saying he had not known of them and that the agency had
over-stepped its authority. But in the end, pressure on him
became too great and he stepped down.
Amid mounting tensions with Iran U.S.-allied Saudi Arabia,
the world's top oil exporter, has signed multi-billion dollar
defence contracts with Western companies.
An absolute monarchy without an elected parliament that
tends not to brook public dissent, Saudi Arabia rejects frequent
accusations of human rights abuses from Western groups such as
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
(Writing by Firouz Sedarat; Editing by Andrew Osborn)