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Swedish official assailed for use of chartered jet

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Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson, facing a general election in less than a year, is taking political flak for his habit of choosing the most expensive way of traveling.

The Swedish media have leapt with relish on Persson's habit of frequently using either a Swedish Air Force plane or of chartering jets for his private use to take him to international meetings.Persson's initial pleading that he did not know how much the chartered planes cost has backfired on him. "He really should be in charge of his own department and not blame his officials," opposition leader Carl Bildt sniped.

Bildt, seeking to oust Persson in next September's election, is riding a wave of popularity after two years as a high-profile United Nations peacemaker in Bosnia and has adopted a statesman-like profile at home.

Persson, on the other hand, is struggling to reverse his unpopular image.

Opinion polls regularly show his Social Democratic Party comfortably beating Bildt's Moderate Party but Bildt is far more popular as favored prime minister than Persson.