In a significant setback for a more unified Europe, Swedes voted overwhelmingly today to reject membership in the European single currency after a passionate referendum campaign, made uncertain to the last moment by the assassination of Foreign Minister Anna Lindh.

The margin of victory for those opposed to adoption of the single currency, the euro, far exceeded the expectations of many people here. It provided a stunning defeat for Prime Minister Goran Persson, who had called the referendum in the belief that most Swedes would agree to abandon their currency, the krona.

Political experts said the impact would be felt across Europe, countering efforts to strengthen the 15-nation European Union before its planned expansion with 10 new members next year. Apart from Sweden, two union members, Denmark and Britain, are outside the 12-country euro-zone stretching from the Arctic Circle to the Mediterranean.

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