Dutch support NATO extension in Libya: PM
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte Friday said the country supported a three-month extension of NATO's air war campaign in Libya, but its planes would not fly bombing missions.
"We have decided to join the mission three months ago and now we have decided to continue for another three months," Rutte told journalists at a press conference, broadcast on Dutch public broadcaster NOS's website.
"The cabinet has reacted positively when informed of our intention to extend the mission by three months," the top politician said.
Six Dutch F-16 warplanes have taken part in enforcing a no-fly zone over the north African country since the end of March, but did not fly bombing missions.
"We are doing exactly what we have done before, nothing more, nothing less and we are not bombing," Rutte said.
He said the decision to continue Dutch support for the NATO campaign was based on the fact that Libyan citizens were still in danger from strongman Moamer Kadhafi's forces.
"Safety for Libyan citizens is unfortunately still not a given," he said.
Apart from fighter planes, the Dutch warship Haarlem has also taken part in the NATO operation by patrolling Libyan waters and enforcing an arms embargo, the Dutch defence ministry said in a statement.
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said on Thursday the NATO countries carrying out the air war in Libya were increasingly feeling the strain and called on other allies to do their part.
The Pentagon boss made a point of calling on three countries -- Spain, the Netherlands and Turkey -- to take part in bombing missions and two other countries that have sat out the operation so far -- Germany and Poland -- to play at least some role, officials said.
But Norway, which has sent six F-16s to Libya, said Friday it will reduce its participation before withdrawing from air operations on August 1.
© 2011 AFP