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Saab's Radar Factory in UAE Sparks Morality Debate in Sweden

© AP Photo / David ZalubowskiThe logo of the Swedish auytomobile manufacturer Saab. (File)
The logo of the Swedish auytomobile manufacturer Saab. (File) - Sputnik International
"At Saab, industrial standpoints are made, not moral or ethical," Saab communications director said, dismissing the mounting ethical concern about his company's future factory in the United Arab Emirates, due to the nation's participation in the war in Yemen.

Sweden's leading arms company Saab is about to open a factory for radar production in the United Arab Emirates, Swedish Radio reported.

According to Saab communications director Sebastian Carlsson, the company's operations in the UAE will have "both civilian and military character." Despite this, the radar factory didn't need any approval from the Inspectorate of Strategic Products (ISP), which inter alia oversees arms sales.

The UAE has been involved in the Yemeni war as part of Operation Decisive Storm, a military alliance of nine countries from North Africa and the Middle East led by Saudi Arabia. The situation in the country has been described as "the world's worst humanitarian catastrophe" by the head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Mark Lowcock.

The fact that radars can be used for military purposes, despite not being classed as weapons, was met with criticism, from among others the Left Party. Critics consider Sweden's arms exports to "non-democratic" states worrying.

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Yasmine Posio Nilsson of the Left Party foreign affairs committee questioned the ethics of Saab's military export, calling Sweden's new bill on arms export "toothless," the Expressen daily newspaper reported.

For Saab, the UAE's participation in the Yemeni war appears to be no obstacle.

"Many different countries across the world are in various conflict environments, and we therefore consider it quite reasonable to be there. I gladly delegate the issue of human rights and the like to those who like to theorize around it," Carlsson retorted.

Carlsson stressed that the company makes industrial standpoints, not moral or ethical.

"What we consider is whether there is an industrial base and skilled labor force, economic viability and opportunity to create products of quality. These are the parameters we look into," Carlsson stressed.

READ MORE: Arms Dilemma: Sweden Wants to Sell Weapons to Dictatorships 'in an Ethical Way'

According to Saab's financial statement for 2017, the Swedish company's operating profit amounted to over SEK 2.1 billion ($260 million), up from SEK 1.8 billion ($220 million) the year before.

"Our order bookings increased by 41 percent, our sales rose by 10 percent and our profits by 20 percent," Saab CEO Håkan Buskhe told the Corren portal, attributing the positive trend to the company's investment into research and development.

The same year, Sweden's overall military exports rose by 2 percent, inflated by, among other things, the sale of JAS 39 Gripen fighter jets to Brazil, totaling SEK 11.3 billion ($1.38 billion), ISP reported.

However paradoxical it may seem, Sweden, which is known for its international peace efforts, ranks among the world's leading arms exporters.

​According to the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society (Svenska freds), arms exports to clients such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia were particularly problematic. Svenska freds admitted that despite regulations prohibiting arms exports to countries that violate human rights, there is still plenty of space for arms exporters to interpret the law in their favor.

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