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Balkenende, Bush to discuss economy, terror

Published on 15/03/2004

15 March 2004

AMSTERDAM — Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende is expected to discuss the war against terror and the global economy in a meeting with US President George Bush on Tuesday.

The Dutch leader has flown to the US for a two-day visit accompanied by Foreign Minister Ben Bot. It is the second time in six months that Balkenende will meet with Bush, public news service NOS reported.

He is also scheduled to meet with United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and will be presented with the Abraham Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Life from Princeton University.

Balkenende last met with Bush in September 2003 when he was accompanied by Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. The then Dutch foreign minister has since been appointed Nato Secretary-General.

This time Balkenende and Bush are expected to discuss the developments in the global economy, relations between Europe and the US and international issues such as Iraq and the war against terror.

The meeting is particularly important for Balkenende because the Netherlands will assume the six-month rotating EU presidency in July.

The Dutch Parliament has also requested that Balkenende make no promises about an extension of the Dutch peacekeeping mission in the south of Iraq. The prime minister said last Friday that he did not intend to make any promises.

After giving political, but not military support to the war against Iraq, the Dutch involvement in the peacekeeping operation in Iraq becomes more important in the light of the Madrid bombings last week.

Islamic terror group Al Qaeda has purportedly claimed responsibility for the bombings as punishment for Spain’s support of Bush and his allies.

Spanish Prime Minister-elect Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has since warned he will pull all 1,300 Spanish troops out of Iraq if the United Nations does not take command.

There are 1,300 Dutch troops stationed in Iraq and US Secretary of State Colin Powell has recently requested the mission be extended. The Dutch government is reportedly poised to order the troops stay in position until at least the end of this year.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news