Arms exports soar while Sweden (officially) tries to curb sales

Sweden is going in two opposite directions when it comes to selling armaments. On the one hand, the country's official policy is still aimed at curbing weapons sales. On the other, Swedish arms exports soared to more than 2 billion krona ($500 million) in 1980.

In the same week as Claes-Ulrik Winberg, chief of Bofors, Sweden's principal arms manufacturing firm, called for a relaxation of export restrictions, questions were tabled in parliament concerning alleged infringement of these restrictions by Bofors.

Britt Theorin, Social Democratic opposition spokesman on defense matters, asked Trade Minister Staffan Burenstam Linder about the alleged sale of Bofors RBS-70 laser- guided antiaircraft missile guns to Bahrain and Dubai.

Arms sales to the Middle East are totally banned because it is an area of tension. Reports published both abroad and in Sweden indicate, however, that RBS-70 guns were deployed in Bahrain at the outbreak of the Iran- Iraq war.

A British diplomat in Dubai said that the purchase of RBS-70 guns by Dubai was "common knowledge."

According to Miss Theorin, the "guns were shipped in pieces to Singapore, reassembled, and then re-exported."

Miss Theorin has asked Mr. Linder if he can deny the deals with Bahrain and Dubai and, if not, if it is possible for the guns to be sold via Singapore without permission. Mr. Linder will reply to her questions on the RBS- 70 affair March 9.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies in London has confirmed the presence of RBS-70 guns in Dubai and Bahrain and the Defense and Foreign Affairs Digest has said they are re-exported from Singapore.

Bofors has maintained strict silence on the affair. Significantly, however, the managing director Widberg's call for an easing of restrictions came soon after the RBS-70 revelations.

Winberg said increased arms sales would provide employment and would earn Sweden billions of dollars.

He cited French arms sales to Saudi Arabia and said that a similar Swedish deal could create 7,000 jobs and give a profit of around $2 billion.

"Even if we increased our arms exports fivefold," Winberg said, "Sweden would only account for 1.5 percent of the total world trade in ar maments."

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