Slain Premier Discussed Arms At Peace Conference, Report Says
LONDON (AP) _ Assassinated Prime Minister Olof Palme of Sweden probably tried to sell arms to India during a 1986 disarmament conference the month before he died, a former Palme aide said on a television news program Tuesday.
Palme, whose February 1986 shooting in Stockholm remains unsolved, discussed an arms sale with Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of India during an international conference on disarmament in New Delhi in January 1986, according to the program ″First Tuesday″ broadcast on commercial Independent Television.
The program quoted John Edwards, whom the program identified as an adviser for Palme on disarmament, as saying Palme asked Gandhi to buy 400 long-range howitzers from Bofors AB, Sweden’s largest arms maker.
Gandhi rejected advice from Indian military experts to purchase rival French-manufactured cannon and awarded a $1.36 billion contract to Bofors, which had been experiencing financial troubles, the program said.
It was Sweden’s largest-ever export contract, the program said.
″I think he (Palme) obviously used that opportunity (the conference) to discuss the Bofors-India deal,″ Edwards said.
A Swedish government investigation concluded in June that Bofors paid unspecified commissions in the deal, but did not say whether those payments violated the agreement.
″First Tuesday″ said Gandhi supported the deal because of guarantees it would be free of middlemen and commissions, which usually raise the cost.
Palme was shot in downtown Stockholm on Feb. 28, 1986 while walking home from a movie. Police have failed to establish a motive or prosecute any suspect.
The program also alleged that Palme allowed Swedish manufacturers to skirt laws banning arms exports to warring countries, making it possible for Swedish arms to reach Iran during its eight-year war with Iraq.
The United Nations had appointed Palme to mediate in the war, but ″First Tuesday″ said Swedish companies supplied Iran with trucks and patrol boats and helped the Iranians build an explosives factory.
Last month, the Swedish magazine ″Z″ claimed that Palme was assassinated in revenge for stopping the sale by Bofors of 18 cannon to Iran in late 1985.