Iraq security situation 'alarming', says Dutch FM

14th April 2004, Comments 0 comments

14 April 2004 , AMSTERDAM — Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot has described the security situation in Iraq as alarming, and said the rising number of kidnappings gives cause for particular concern. Dutch troops in Iraq are on high alert but have so far escaped serious confrontations with local militias.

14 April 2004

AMSTERDAM — Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot has described the security situation in Iraq as alarming, and said the rising number of kidnappings gives cause for particular concern. Dutch troops in Iraq are on high alert but have so far escaped serious confrontations with local militias.

The Christian Democrat CDA minister said the Dutch peacekeeping troops stationed in the south of Iraq have taken extra security precautions in light of escalated violence in other parts of the country.

Troops have been ordered to always carry a helmet with them and their weaponry has been beefed up, a limited number of military vehicles will be deployed to  supply convoy duty and a minimum number of troops were be assigned to each vehicle.

But normal tasks, such as the training and education of Iraqi security personnel, will continue. Troops are conducting patrols more frequently to maintain direct contact with the local population and the Dutch base is protected by earthen embankments and barbed wire.

An agreement has been reached with the local authorities spelling out that Dutch soldiers will keep a low profile in times of unrest. But if Iraq security forces cannot maintain order, the Dutch troops will intervene.

This approach proved effective during demonstrations on 7 April, when Dutch troops did not need to go into action, news agency ANP reported.

The Dutch government supports the US military's actions in the city Falluja — the scene of hundreds of deaths last week — and Bot said the US operations there were appropriate in ongoing efforts to bring security to Iraq, news agency Novum reported.

Acting on behalf of Defence Minister Henk Kamp, Minister Bot also told Parliament that the radical Shia leader Moqtada Sadr — whose militia are involved in bloody battles with coalition troops south of Baghdad — attracted little support in the Dutch patrol region in Al Muthanna province .

Three-quarters of the local population in the region support another spiritual leader, the more moderate Ali al-Sistani. The province remains relatively calm despite the violence elsewhere.

There are about 1,300 Dutch troops in Iraq and the Cabinet must soon decide on whether to extend the peacekeeping mission beyond July. No Dutch troops have been killed despite several clashes with Iraqi gunmen and looters.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news

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