April 14, 2012 / 8:15 PM / 6 years ago

Saudi Arabia denies plan for Swedish-built arms plant

DUBAI, April 14 (Reuters) - 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 official.

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)

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