Page last updated at 18:03 GMT, Sunday, 23 August 2009 19:03 UK

Netanyahu enters Sweden organ row

Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin Netanyahu described the article as outrageous

Israel's prime minister has urged the Swedish government to condemn a Swedish newspaper article that claimed Israeli troops killed Palestinians for organs.

Benjamin Netanyahu joins broad Israeli criticism of the Aftonbladet paper over the claims troops took organs to sell.

An Israeli official quoted him saying: "Statements in the Swedish press were outrageous. We are not expecting an apology - we expect condemnation."

Sweden has refused to condemn the article, citing freedom of expression.

But Mr Netanyahu reportedly compared the claims to medieval "blood libels", which alleged that Jews used the blood of Christian babies during religious ceremonies.

Israel's Interior Ministry has said it is freezing new visas to Swedish journalists, although those already in Israel can continue working.

Ikea boycott mooted

Israeli finance minister Yuval Steinitz said if Sweden would not condemn the story, Israel might cancel a visit by the Swedish foreign minister planned for September.

Later, the spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry Yigal Palmor said: "There is no question of cancelling or delaying this visit, but it is clear that this incident will cast a worrying shadow over meetings if it is not resolved."

An online petition calling for a boycott of Swedish companies, including Ikea, has been signed by hundreds of Israelis, the Haaretz newspaper has reported.

The story - in Sweden's top-selling daily newspaper - claimed Israeli soldiers kidnapped Palestinian youths and returned their dismembered bodies a few days later.

The tabloid claimed organs were then sold for transplant - with incidents dating back to 1992.

Sweden's ambassador to Israel called the article "shocking and appalling".

But Sweden's foreign minister Carl Bildt wrote he would not condemn the article because freedom of expression is part of the Swedish constitution.

Mr Bildt added that condemnation of anti-Semitism is "the only issue on which there has ever been complete unity in the Swedish parliament".

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