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Sweden's defense minister steps down
Sweden's defense minister steps down following outcry over Saudi arms deal
By The Associated Press

STOCKHOLM (AP) ' The Swedish defense minister is resigning after facing harsh criticism over leaked plans to build a weapons plant in Saudi Arabia, a government official said Thursday.

Sten Tolgfors is stepping down at his own request, Roberta Alenius, a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, told The Associated Press. She declined to discuss the reason and said more information would be presented at a news conference Thursday.

Tolgfors was criticized after Swedish public radio, citing leaked documents, reported that Swedish military agencies were in talks to help Saudi Arabia build facility for repairs and modifications of anti-tank weapons.

Sweden has no ban on weapons exports to Saudi Arabia, but the reports suggested the deal was set up in a way to avoid a public discussion on the issue.

Tolgfors defended the plans, saying they were in line with a military cooperation agreement signed by the two countries in 2005, and renewed in 2010.

Still, calls for him to resign mounted as the left-wing opposition accused the center-right government of trying to cover-up its involvement in the Saudi plans.

Peace activists who oppose Sweden's military exports say it's particularly improper for the country to strike military agreements with non-democratic regimes.

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