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Last Updated: Friday, 23 March 2007, 11:23 GMT
Cuba-Sweden diplomatic row grows
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt
Mr Bildt says he was "taken aback" by Havana's response
Sweden's foreign minister is standing by his criticism of Cuba's human rights record, as a diplomatic row between the two countries shows no sign of abating.

Cuba responded to Carl Bildt's comments at the UN by deriding what it called Sweden's imperial past.

Mr Bildt has hit back describing Havana's response as "a desperate attack by a desperate regime".

He also told the BBC that diplomatic mail at the Swedish embassy in Havana was being tampered with.

"Whether it is linked to this [row] we don't know, but it happened at roughly the same time," he told the Europe Today programme.

Viking days

The row dates back to 12 March, when Mr Bildt gave a speech before the UN Human Rights Council in which he accused Cuba and other countries of violating human rights.

Cuba, unlike Sweden, does not persecute migrants or carry out ethnic cleansing...
Juan Antonio Fernandez Palacios
Cuban delegate
Following the address, the Cuban representative, Juan Antonio Fernandez Palacios, accused Sweden of hypocrisy.

He said Mr Bildt's comments recalled "the not-so-glorious days of Swedish imperialism, which filled with blood and pain their neighbouring countries".

"Cuba, unlike Sweden, does not persecute migrants or carry out ethnic cleansing that only allows those whose skin and hair colour fit with the racial patterns of former Viking conquerors to remain in the country," he was then quoted as saying.

Mr Bildt, who said he was taken aback by the Cuban reaction, said he had "pointed out a fact that was well known to everyone: that they don't respect human rights in Cuba".

"The Viking days are gone," he said, rejecting the Cuban accusations.

"This is one of the most open countries in Europe in terms of immigration," he added.

Cuba: Key facts
07 Aug 06 |  Special Reports
Country profile: Cuba
23 Feb 07 |  Country profiles

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