Cabinet agrees to extend Iraqi security mission
11 June 2004
AMSTERDAM — The Dutch Cabinet backed – as expected – an eight-month extension of the nation’s peacekeeping mission in Iraq on Friday.
The extension of the mission in the southern Iraqi province al-Muthanna will involve two troop replacements every four months.
The Dutch contingent will remain in Iraq until after the Iraqi elections, scheduled in the new United Nations Security Council resolution for end January 2005.
Prior to the weekly meeting of Dutch ministers, it became clear they would back the mission extension, as proposed by Foreign Affairs Minister Ben Bot, Defence Minister Henk Kamp and Overseas Development Minister Agnes van Ardenne.
There are presently about 1,350 Dutch soldiers stationed in Iraq, most of who are members of the airborne brigade. Six Apache combat helicopters were dispatched to the region last month to improve security.
The troops have come under regular attack in recent months. Dutch bases have been targeted by explosives and a sergeant major was killed in a grenade attack in May. The arrested suspects of the murder are being detained by British troops.
Dutch troops have also been involved in several shootings — resulting in two deaths at security checkpoints — but the situation has quietened in recent weeks, Dutch public news service NOS reported.
In response to the UN resolution providing a mandate for the international peacekeeping troops, coalition government party Democrat D66 decided on Wednesday to side with the Christian Democrat CDA and Liberal VVD to extend the Dutch mission.
The D66 had previously raised doubts about the mission in the absence of a UN mandate, but the party said the Security Council resolution on Tuesday gave full sovereignty to the Iraqi authorities.
But main opposition party Labour PvdA — which has regularly called for a greater role for the United Nations in Iraq — remains opposed to the mission’s extension.
Leader Wouter Bos said after meeting with Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende on Thursday that he had not been given a sufficient guarantee regarding troop safety. Bos has demanded a parliamentary debate with Ministers Bot and Kamp next week.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news