Swedish Leader Leaves Israel Early

Swedish Deputy Prime Minister Mona Sahlin cut short a visit to Israel, after the Foreign Ministry denied her permission to meet with Palestinian officials at Orient House in eastern Jerusalem.

Sahlin said prior to her departure Monday that she would return to Israel at a time when she would be able to choose “Whom I can meet, and when.”

Sahlin canceled planned meetings with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.

Peres denied that Shalin’s departure represented a “diplomatic incident.”

He said the Foreign Ministry had explained to Sahlin that because her trip was ceremonial, not political, it would not be appropriate to meet at Orient House, which serves as the Palestine Liberation Organization’s de facto headquarters in Jerusalem.

During her abbreviated stay, Sahlin took part in ceremonies honoring Count Folke Bernadotte, who helped save thousands of Jews during the Holocaust.

Bernadotte, who was later appointed by the United Nations to mediate in the 1948 War of Independence, was assassinated in September of that year by members of the Stern gang.

The group, whose members included Yitzhak Shamir, opposed Bernadotte’s policies, which called for the internationalization of Jerusalem.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said reports that Sahlin’s departure marked a crisis in Israeli-Swedish relations were “wild exaggerations.”

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