Sweden has decided to withdraw from an international air force exercise to be held in Italy next month after learning that units from the Israeli air force will participate, a Swedish government spokesman said Wednesday.
Sweden had originally agreed to send eight jet fighters to the Volcanex 2006 exercise in Italy between May 8-26.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Christian Karlsson said the aim of the drill was to prepare for future cooperation in international peacekeeping operations, but added that "the participation of the Israeli Air Force has changed the prerequisites of the exercise."
Defense Minister Leni Bjorklund said in a statement that Sweden pulled out because a state "that does not participate in international peacekeeping missions" would be part of the exercise, but did not mention Israel by name.
Sweden has a long-standing policy of neutrality, but is actively involved in UN-peacekeeping missions. Its armed forces also participate in NATO exercises under the Partnership for Peace program.
The Volcanex 2006 exercise will be held in cooperation with the European Air Group as part of the Italian Air Force exercise Spring Flag in Decimomannu, Italy.
The EAG was established to further develop the collaboration between British and French air forces in the first Gulf War. It now has seven member nations.