Saudis recall Sweden ambassador amid diplomatic row

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Sweden's Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom - 30 October 2014Image source, AP
Image caption,
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom was blocked from speaking to the Arab League

Saudi Arabia has recalled its ambassador after Sweden ended a weapons deal between the countries on Monday.

Sweden acted after Saudi Arabia blocked a speech by the Swedish foreign minister to the Arab League.

On Wednesday, the Saudi Foreign Ministry described Margot Wallstrom's remarks as "offensive" and a "blatant interference in its internal affairs."

The decade old defence deal was worth millions of dollars in Swedish arms exports and was due to expire in May.

The Swedish foreign ministry confirmed that Saudi Ambassador Ibrahim bin Saad Al-Ibrahim was being withdrawn due to the country's criticism of the Kingdom's record on "human rights and democracy."

Ms Wallstrom is an outspoken critic of the Gulf state, previously describing it as a "dictatorship".

On Monday, Ms Wallstrom posted online a copy of the speech she was due to give to the Arab League in Cairo.

In the wide-ranging speech she highlighted Sweden's commitment to international human rights. She also advocated the benefits of democratic progress, and called for members to "focus attention on women's rights."

She described freedom of religion and expression as "fundamental rights".

In February, Ms Wallstrom told the Swedish parliament that Riyadh violated women's rights and criticised the flogging of activist and blogger Raif Badawi.

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