9 March 2004
AMSTERDAM — The Cabinet is in favour of extending the Dutch peacekeeping mission in southern Iraq by at least another six months, political sources have indicated.
There are 1,300 Dutch troops in the Iraqi province Al Muthanna and marines already stationed in the desert region could be relieved mid-July, Defence and Interior Ministry sources have said.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell recently asked the Dutch to extend the peacekeeping mission in Iraq and the Dutch Parliament will discuss the situation on Tuesday, public news service NOS reported.
Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende will visit US President George Bush next week and they are expected to discuss both Iraq and Afghanistan, where Dutch troops are expected to be redeployed later this year.
Both Foreign Affairs Minister Ben Bot and Defence Minister Henk Kamp are in favour of redeploying Dutch troops in Afghanistan. The troops will assist the Nato-led ISAF peacekeeping mission and the reconstruction of the Central Asian nation.
The coalition Christian Democrat CDA, Liberal VVD and Democrat D66 Cabinet approved earlier this month the deployment of about 150 soldiers to the northern Afghan city Kunduz.
The Dutch previously provided 650 troops to the ISAF force after the Taliban regime was ousted in December 2001. The Netherlands and Germany handed over joint command of ISAF to Nato in August 2003.
A team of soldiers and diplomats will soon be dispatched to Afghanistan to assess the present situation in preparation for the new mission.
Meanwhile, six Apache combat helicopters and 135 military personnel will be deployed in Afghanistan this month.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news