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Saudis go ape, detain Swedish monkeys at border

Spat turns pygmy marmosets into the cutest political pawns ever

A quartet of confused Swedish monkeys have been denied entry to Saudi Arabia – the latest development in an escalating diplomatic row between the two countries.

Four tiny Amazonian monkeys, each weighing just over 100g, are at the centre of the spat that started after Sweden's foreign minister criticised Saudi Arabia's human rights record.

Last month, foreign minister Margot Wallström said it was unethical for Sweden to continue with its military co-operation agreement with Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi foreign ministry then recalled its ambassador Ibrahim bin Saad al-Ibrahim in protest over Sweden’s criticism, accusing Wallström of "flagrant ignorance".

Now a private (Skansen) zoo in Stockholm, Sweden said it has been been forced to cancel plans to send two pairs of pygmy marmosets to a Riyadh zoo after a Saudi official vetoed the arrangement.

Skansen zoo boss Jonas Wahlstrom told Radio Sweden: "They didn't want the monkeys anymore because of the political situation."

He said: "It's a little comical. I'll just have to wait until they grant visas to Swedish businessmen again. Maybe monkeys will get visas then too," reported the BBC.

Rumours that the monkeys are Swedish spies have yet to be confirmed – but it would not be the first time primates have been accused of espionage.

During the Napoleonic Wars, a French ship was wrecked off the shore of Hartlepool, northern England, and a monkey found in the water – thought to have been the ship's mascot – was hanged by local fishermen for fear it was a spy. ®

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