Swedish foreign minister quits in cartoon internet row

22.03.06 @ 09:54

  1. By Teresa Küchler

Swedish foreign minister Laila Freivalds resigned on Tuesday (21 March) following a row connected to the infamous Mohammed cartoons.

Ms Freivalds had faced fierce criticism after the Swedish foreign ministry allegedly ordered the website of a far-right party, Sweden Democrats, which had threatened to publish the cartoons, to be shut down.

The website was closed when a foreign ministry official contacted the firm Levonline that hosted the website.

In response to allegations that the move violated Swedish freedom of speech laws, Ms Freivalds claimed the official had merely pointed out that the website was endangering the lives of Swedes.

Ms Freivalds also said she had no knowledge of her ministry's contact with the website hosts.

Swedish prime minister Goran Persson also accused the ministry official of acting unconstitutionally by letting his own opinion in the matter guide his acts instead of Swedish law.

Earlier this week, the official himself told the Swedish attorney-general investigating the closure that he had deliberated with Ms Freivalds prior to contacting Levonline, and that the minister had claimed the move was vital to "protect Swedish interests."

The incident has been seen as embarrassing the prime minister.

The shutting down of the website is currently being investigated by the Swedish parliament’a constitutional committee and the office of the chancellor of justice, and opposition leaders on Wednesday hinted that a possible vote of no confidence against the prime minister may be initiated.

Cartoons legacy hangs over Denmark

Meanwhile across the Oresund strait, Denmark has reacted with anger to a UN campaign poster marking the World Day against racism, picturing a jigsaw puzzle and a piece of Lego - one of Denmark's best export products and almost a national symbol.

"Racism takes many shapes" says the poster, which has also been printed in Arabic states.

Danish human rights activists call the poster "tactless and stupid" and the "deeply surprised" Lego firm has contacted the UN for an explanation, the Nordic press writes.

After an official request by Danish foreign minister Per Stig Moller, UN spokesperson Jose Luis Diaz said the poster designer was "probably not aware of the Lego piece origin", and that the poster would be withdrawn.

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