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Saudi Arabia recalls ambassador to Sweden

The diplomatic row between Saudi Arabia and Sweden has intensified with Riyadh withdrawing its ambassador in a dispute over Saudi Arabia's human rights record. The move follows Sweden's cancellation of defense ties.

Riyadh has pulled its ambassador, Ibrahim al-Brahim, out of Stockholm, the Swedish Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday amid a deepening diplomatic spat between the two nations over Sweden's criticism of the kingdom's human rights record.

"We reject attempts to interfere in our internal affairs," Osama Nugali of the Saudi Foreign Ministry said on Twitter, calling Wallström's critique of his government "harmful to the kingdom."

On Tuesday, Sweden said it would cancel

long-standing defense cooperation

with Saudi Arabia after Riyadh blocked Swedish top diplomat Margot Wallström's speech at the recent Arab League meeting in Cairo. Wallström had been invited to open the conference to show the organization's appreciation of her government's recognition of a Palestinian state.

Schweden, Eröffnung der palästinensischen Botschaft

Wallström shook hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the opening of the Palestinian embassy in Stockholm in February

"We have received information that Saudi Arabia has called its ambassador home," said Erik Boman, a spokesman for Wallström. Boman said the reason given was the same as the one for blocking her talk in Egypt: "Sweden's criticism and statements which have been made about human rights and democracy."

Wallström condemns Saudi ‘dictatorship'

In February, Wallström told the Swedish parliament that Saudi Arabia violated women's rights and she criticized the flogging of

activist and blogger Raif Badawi

. She also called the kingdom a "dictatorship."

Following the Saudi protest against her, the Arab League agreed to a resolution denouncing Wallström's remark, according to the Saudi Press Agency. Stockholm reacted with the announcement that it would not continue its defense trade agreement after ten years.

Saudi Arabia, the third-largest non-Western customer for Swedish weapons, bought military equipment worth $39 million (37 million euros) last year alone.

Erik Boman said that Sweden has no plans to recall its ambassador to Riyadh.

es/rc (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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