Dutch Iraqi peacekeeping mission to end in March

17th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

17 January 2005, AMSTERDAM — Dutch ministers have decided against a gradual withdrawal of the nation's peacekeeping troops from Iraq and the mission will end as planned mid-March, it was reported on Monday.

17 January 2005

AMSTERDAM — Dutch ministers have decided against a gradual withdrawal of the nation's peacekeeping troops from Iraq and the mission will end as planned mid-March, it was reported on Monday.

Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, Foreign Minister Ben Bot and Defence Minister Henk Kamp met on Monday morning to discuss a proposed gradual withdrawal to ensure a vacuum is not left behind in the Dutch patrol area.

But a spokesman for Balkenende later told news agency ANP that the soldiers will be definitely withdrawn as planned in March.

The full Cabinet will confirm the decision at its weekly meeting on Friday. The Dutch security responsibilities in the patrol area in the southern Iraqi province al-Muthanna will then be handed over to the British in March.

The main detachment of some 1,400 Dutch troops will depart from Iraq in March, but several hundred soldiers will remain in the region for six to eight weeks to dismantle the Dutch camp, ANP reported.

Both the Christian Democrat CDA and Liberal VVD were exerting pressure on the cabinet to extend the mission. But the cabinet, main opposition party Labour PvdA and the Democrat D66 were opposed to a proposed extension.

Minister Bot later proposed a very gradual withdrawal from Iraq to meet requests from the US and Britain, which were concerned about a possible two-to-three week withdrawal.

Meanwhile, prior to the decision on Monday to bring the troops home as planned, a spokesman for Minister Kamp refused to comment on whether Dutch intelligence forces had already been ordered to stay in Iraq for an extra month.

Sources had informed Expatica at the weekend that some intelligence forces had been told their mission would continue for the short-term. But the spokesman said he never confirms the action of intelligence personnel.

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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