Dutch urged to keep troops in Iraq
10 February 2004
AMSTERDAM — The US has asked the Netherlands to extend its peacekeeping mission in Iraq, but Foreign Minister Ben Bot gave no assurances during a meeting with American Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington on Monday.
Minister Bot said it was too early to give a definite answer to the US request and that there were “101 factors that must still be examined”. He also said the matter will be discussed in The Hague, public news service NOS reported.
The 1,100 Dutch peacekeeping troops will remain in southern Iraq until at least August, but Defence Minister Henk Kamp recently said that it is possible that the mission will be extended.
The Dutch are patrolling a thinly-populated desert region and despite security concerns, Parliament voted to extend the mission by six months late last year.
And during Bot’s 60 minute get-to-know-you chat over lunch with Powell, the safety of troops stationed in Iraq remained a central theme. More than 500 US soldiers have been killed in Iraq, but no Dutch deaths have occurred.
Bot — who recently replaced new Nato chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer as Dutch Foreign Minister — said his meeting with Powell had been “constructive” and Powell expressly thanked the Netherlands for its support. The Dutch government gave political, but not military support to the US-led invasion of Iraq last year.
Powell also praised Minister Bot for being a “true Atlantic” referring to the former diplomat’s stated intention to help build better links between Europe and the US when the Netherlands assumes the six-month rotating presidency of the EU in July.
Bot — who had previously met Powell during a Nato meeting in Brussels — said Powell’s wishes about the Dutch military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan will be discussed in The Hague. Both men spoke optimistically during their post-meeting press conference.
Powell also said he will take into consideration Bot’s request for a greater involvement in the political future of Iraq. In light of its large military and financial contribution, the Netherlands has a “right to a greater political voice”, the Dutch minister said.
Bot also put in a good word for Dutch companies that wish to be involved in the reconstruction of Iraq.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news