World

Sweden's foreign minister cancels Israel visit

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt has cancelled a planned visit to Israel in the midst of an apparently worsening diplomatic squabble.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt has cancelled a planned visit to Israel in the midst of an apparently worsening diplomatic squabble.

Bildt was expected to arrive in Israel this Friday, but the Israeli Foreign Ministry said on Sunday that it has learned he won't be coming.

Israel and Sweden are at odds over the publication last month of an incendiary article in the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet. The unsubstantiated article alleged that Israeli soldiers had harvested the organs of Palestinians.

Irena Busic, a spokeswoman for Bildt, said he cancelled because of a problem with timing and denied the tabloid article had anything to do with his travel plans.

Israeli officials have condemned the article as anti-Semitic and reminiscent of medieval "blood libel" against Jews.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has demanded the Swedish government condemn the article. Sweden has refused calls for an official condemnation, citing freedom of expression and press freedom.

Rabbi Michael Malchior, a former member of the Israeli parliament who has lived and worked in Sweden, said condemnation is not the same as censorship.

"I think a government can go out and say something about what it thinks. A government has freedom of speech just as a journalist and a newspaper has freedom of speech," he said.

There is speculation in the Israeli media that Bildt decided to cancel his trip upon hearing that Netanyahu might refuse to meet with him.

With files from The Associated Press