Cabinet considers keepingDutch troops in Iraq longer

17th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

17 January 2005, AMSTERDAM — The Dutch Cabinet is to discuss on Monday a proposal to keep several hundred Dutch soldiers in Iraq until the middle or end of June, some three months longer than the planned withdrawal on 15 March.

17 January 2005

AMSTERDAM — The Dutch Cabinet is to discuss on Monday a proposal to keep several hundred Dutch soldiers in Iraq until the middle or end of June, some three months longer than the planned withdrawal on 15 March.

But political sources told newspaper De Volkskrant that the government is not considering extending the mission with new soldiers. Foreign Minister Ben Bot is instead talking about a gradual withdrawal of the troops.

Bot is considering keeping the troops in Iraq for another 12 weeks, while his colleague at the Defence Ministry, Henk Kamp, is considering a gradual withdrawal over six weeks, the newspaper reported.

Under Minister Bot's plans, the troop numbers would be reduced from an estimated 1,400 to 650 and then to 200. Sources said the plan is that all troops would leave the southern Iraqi province of al-Muthanna by 1 July.

Bot is in favour of a very gradual withdrawal from Iraq to meet requests from the US and Britain, which are concerned about a possible two to three week withdrawal. Speaking at a Christian Democrat CDA meeting in Zeist, the minister said taking 1,400 troops out of Iraq would leave a vacuum that would have to be filled by the British.

Both the CDA and Liberal VVD are exerting pressure on the cabinet to extend the mission, but the cabinet is reportedly opposed to their demands. Main opposition party Labour PvdA and the Democrat D66 are also opposed and Bot believes a gradual withdrawal is the maximum that could be obtained.

The former civilian administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, said last week that Dutch  troops should stay longer in Iraq. He said until the security situation has improved, coalition nations such as Poland, the Netherlands and the Ukraine should remain. "The job is not yet done," Bremer said.

The Dutch government gave "political, but not military" support to the US-led invasion of Iraq and deployed a peacekeeping force to the south of the country in the summer of 2003. Two Dutch soldiers have been killed and Dutch troops have killed about a dozen Iraqis.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Dutch news

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