26 November 2003
AMSTERDAM — Foreign Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has escaped officially being hauled over the coals for his role in the secret US military recruitment of Iraqi exiles in the lead-up to the March invasion of the Islamic nation.
A Labour PvdA motion accusing the minister of withholding information from the Parliament only gained backing on Tuesday from opposition parties green-left GroenLinks and the Socialist Party (SP).
De Hoop Scheffer twice said earlier this year that the Dutch government was not involved in the selection and recruitment of Iraqi exiles in the Netherlands.
The US recruited hundreds of Iraqi exiles mainly from Western Europe and the US to assist in the invasion of Iraq. Initial plans to deploy them in the frontline were scaled back and the troops were trained in Hungary to act as interpreters and for post-war humanitarian efforts.
The Labour PvdA and green-left GroenLinks — both of which accused the minister of reproachable behaviour — plus Democrat D66 and Liberal VVD vocally rebuked the minister last week for his role in the matter.
It was recently revealed that the Justice Ministry in February gave a guarantee to two Iraqis who were still waiting for a decision over their asylum request that they would be allowed to return to the Netherlands after serving with the US forces.
De Hoop Scheffer has since said “a political decision” had been taken in favour of the request and the transport of the selected Iraqis from a Dutch airstrip to Hungary was also approved. But the minister said the two decisions had nothing to do with recruitment or selection.
PvdA MP Bert Koenders said last week the minister’s answers were unsatisfactory, while GroenLinks MP Farah Karimi accused the minister of “language acrobatics”. Coalition government partner MPs Geert Wilders (VVD) and Bert Bakker (D66) were also unappreciative of the linguistic wriggling act.
But the PvdA motion to put De Hoop Scheffer through the “wringer” failed to gain a parliamentary majority, thwarting a threatened bitter farewell for De Hoop Scheffer, who will soon start in his new job as Nato Secretary-General.
[Copyright Expatica News 2003]
Subject: Dutch news