Saudi Arabia recalls ambassador from Sweden in diplomatic row

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STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia has recalled its ambassador from Stockholm after a diplomatic row between the two countries over Swedish criticism of Riyadh’s human rights record, Saudi Arabia and Sweden said on Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia confirmed the report, saying the move was prompted by remarks by Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom that amounted to “an interference in its internal affairs” in violation of international covenants and diplomatic conventions.

The official Saudi statement carried by the state news agency SPA did not elaborate. Wallstrom called Saudi Arabia a dictatorship last month and denounced its treatment of women and the flogging of human rights activist and blogger Raif Badawi.

In Stockholm, a spokesman for Wallstrom said: “We have received information that Saudi Arabia has called its ambassador home.”

Erik Boman said the reason given for the action was Sweden’s criticism of Riyahd’s record on human rights and democracy.

On Wednesday, Sweden said it would cancel a long-standing defense cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia. That followed Saudi Arabia’s decision to block a speech due to be given by Wallstrom to the League of Arab States earlier this week.

Reporting by Daniel Dickson, Johan Sennero and Johan Ahlander in Stockholm and Sami Aboudi in Dubai; Editing by Tom Heneghan