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Saudi Arabia cancels Swedish Foreign Minister's speech at Arab League

Saudi Arabia has blocked a planned speech by Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom to the League of Arab States in Cairo following her criticism of its human rights record, Wallstrom has told local news media.

Wallstrom said on Monday notification that her speech had been axed for the event – during which the promotion of democracy, human rights and economic integration were to be discussed – had been relayed to her via the Swedish embassy in Cairo a day earlier.

Wallstrom told Sweden's news agency TT: "The explanation we have received is that Sweden has drawn attention to the situation of democracy and human rights [in Saudi Arabia], and that is why they do not want me to speak."

Wallstrom had been invited as a guest of honour to the meeting of Arab League foreign ministers and invited to speak.

Wallstrom had tweeted in January that Saudi Arabia's flogging of blogger Raif Badawi had been a "cruel attempt to silence modern forms of expression".

The move by Saudi Arabia could result in Sweden ending a controversial military arms deal with Saudi Arabia.

Valter Mutt, a spokesman for the Green Party which is in coalition with Sweden's Social Democrat-led government, told daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter in an interview published on Monday that it was clear the Swedish government should scrap the contract.

Mutt said: "I'm not surprised. This is how dictatorships usually behave when they receive criticism."

"This underlines even more how inappropriate it is to have a military cooperation agreement with this type of regime."

Maria Weimer, a member of the Swedish Parliament, also told Dagens Nyheter: "What has happened in Egypt is a sign that Sweden has already hit bottom level in relations with Saudi Arabia."

"There are definitely no grounds left for selling weapons to such country."

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