Expatica news

Dutch PM expects Labour to back Iraqi mission

9 June 2004

AMSTERDAM — After the UN backed a new resolution on Iraq on Tuesday, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said he expected main opposition party Labour PvdA to support an extension of the nation’s peacekeeping mission in southern Iraq.

Welcoming the UN vote, Balkenende said it was “highly improbable” the PvdA would vote against the extension on Friday due to the unanimous support the United Nations Security Council gave to the resolution, news agency ANP reported.

“It is about fair play in politics. This resolution is a reality no one can get around,” the prime minister said.

The vote in the 15-member Security Council in New York came after countries that objected to earlier versions finally voted in favour of the latest draft. The resolution was welcomed by world leaders and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the document was “a complete and balanced resolution”.

The resolution states that by 30 June, the US-led occupation will end and power will be transferred to the Iraqis and that democratic elections to a Transitional National Assembly must be held no later than 31 January 2005.

The resolution also provides for full partnership between Iraqi forces and the multinational force and places Iraqi security forces under Iraqi control.

The new Iraqi government will assume full sovereignty and will have power to send the US-led foreign troops home, but is not expected to do so. The government does not have explicit power to veto individual military operations, BBC reported.

The mandate of the US-led multinational force will expire once a permanent Iraqi government is constitutionally elected by the end of 2005.

Back in the Netherlands, Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot added to the prime minister’s favourable reaction to the UN resolution and said it completely met the Netherlands’ wishes. He pointed to the greater role for the UN and the creation of an Iraqi interim government.

Bot urged the PvdA to support an extension of the Dutch peacekeeping extension. He said the new resolution met almost all of the PvdA’s wishes and that he expected the opposition party to eventually back the extension.

As the main opposition party in the Lower House of Parliament, the PvdA has always said it wants a greater role for the UN in Iraq.

But leader Wouter Bos remains wary, telling RTL News that many changes still need to be made on the ground in Iraq if his party is to back the mission’s extension. He said the reality in Iraq is not changed by a piece of paper in New York.

Nevertheless, Balkenende said the fact that both France and China also voted in favour of the resolution is a signal the PvdA cannot ignore. The prime minister is expected to meet with Bos on Thursday and hopes that he will opt for “clarity” because stronger support of the mission is of great importance.

The Cabinet is scheduled to decide on Friday whether to extend the nation’s peacekeeping mission in Iraq by eight months. There are presently 1,360 Dutch troops stationed in the southern province al-Muthanna. One soldier was killed in a grenade attack last month.

The majority of MPs in the Lower House, Tweede Kamer, are in favour of extending the mission and the PvdA’s support is thus not a necessity. But in the past, Dutch troops have always been deployed with broad support from the Parliament.

Meanwhile, a survey conducted by newspaper Algemeen Dagblad indicated that the Dutch public is divided over the issue of the mission’s extension. Out of 750 people surveyed, 51.2 percent were opposed to the extension. Among those opposed, 61.9 percent were women.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news