Sweden's hunt for underwater intruders begins to come under political attack

Sweden's submarine hunt has put the country on edge - politically. Criticism is rising against both Prime Minister Olof Palme's government and the military for failing to show any results as the hunt for foreign subs and divers near Karlskrona, the site of a major Swedish naval base, enters its second month.

Late last week, the military released sonar pictures of a minisubmarine trying to get out of Karlskrona harbor on Feb. 26. But this hard evidence of alien intruders only caused outrage over the failure of naval vessels and helicopters to fire on the submarine, which was tracked for an hour by an unarmed submarine rescue ship.

Mr. Palme has been accused by the opposition of conducting business as usual and of continuing normal relations with the Soviet Union despite the presence of what are widely considered to be Soviet underwater reconnaissance teams in Karlskrona. The prime minister has said he is waiting for conclusive evidence before making an international political issue of the events.

Former Prime Minister Ola Ullsten of the opposition Liberal Party wrote recently in a major Stockholm newspaper: ''If everything isn't stood on its head , we are dealing with the same intruders as earlier, that is, the Soviet Union. In that case, it has been proven that the highest political leadership of that country has been telling open and blunt lies in its contacts with the Swedish government.''

Jan Eliasson, the Swedish Foreign Ministry's chief political officer, returned recently from a controversial visit to Moscow and said Soviet officials had assured him that the Soviet Union respected Sweden's borders and neutrality. Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko made the same assurances in January.

Confusion also arose during the past week about the scope and purpose of military operations against the intruders. A military order left the impression that soldiers and naval personnel were supposed to gather evidence of the intruders' presence rather than attack them.

After an uproar in the press, military spokesmen rushed to add that the best evidence would be captured divers and vessels. On Sunday night, the military detonated a large mine, its heaviest antisubmarine weapon, near Karlskrona harbor. It wasn't disclosed whether the mine had any effect.

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