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United Arab Emirates recalls ambassador to Sweden after Saudi spat

The United Arab Emirates has recalled its envoy to Sweden a week after Saudi Arabia did the same. The move came after the Swedish foreign minister denounced Saudi Arabia's flogging of a rights activist.

Tension between Stockholm and the Gulf Arab nations grew on Wednesday after the United Arab Emirates recalled its envoy to Sweden over what it called "abusive remarks."

The UAE said it had made the move in protest at statements made by Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström denouncing Saudi Arabia's treatment of women and rights activists.

"The statements violate the principle of sovereignty upon which the normal relations between countries are based," UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar bin Mohammed Gargash said in a statement. Such remarks are "deemed interference in internal affairs as they do not respect the religious and cultural peculiarities of states and communities," he said.

Wallström's spokesman Erik Boman said Sweden regretted the UAE's statement. "We have good and broad relations with the United Arab Emirates that we want to protect and develop," Boman said.

Last month Saudi Arabia took the same step after Wallström denounced its treatment of women and the flogging of rights activist and blogger Raif Badawi.

Sweden also halted a long-term defense contract with Riyadh after Saudi Arabia apparently canceled a speech due to be given by Wallström to the Arab League last week. The Arab League also condemned Sweden for its stance on human rights in Saudi Arabia.

mg/bk (Reuters, dpa)

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