16 March 2004
AMSTERDAM — On the eve of a meeting with US President George Bush, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende implicitly criticised Spanish Prime Minister-elect Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and his intention to pull peacekeeping troops out of Iraq.
Balkenende said on Monday that the international community “must not turn away from Iraq” because that would not be “in the interests of the country”. His comments strengthened indications the Cabinet is prepared to extend the Dutch mission to Iraq beyond 1 July.
Without explicitly referring to the 1,300 Dutch troops stationed in southern Iraq, the prime minister said that “yielding to terror” is not the right choice. “The solidarity of the international community with Iraq is important,” he told RTL news.
Balkenende is on a two-day visit to the US with Foreign Minister Ben Bot. He is meeting with President Bush later on Tuesday and the two leaders are expected to discuss the global economy, Iraq and the ongoing war against terror.
In response to the devastating Madrid bombings last week, Zapatero said after his stunning electoral victory on Sunday that the 1,300 Spanish troops in Iraq will return home by 30 June. A Socialist Party spokesman said the troops would only remain in Iraq if the United Nations took command of the mission.
And as Europe tried to come to terms with the bombings — which killed at least 201 and left more than a 1,000 injured — European states called emergency security meetings. The meetings come as evidence continues to mount implicating Islamic extremists in the attacks.
Intelligence officials will meet in the Spanish capital Madrid to discuss improving cooperation and EU ministers will hold emergency talks on Friday. A routine EU summit next week is expected to be dominated by security issues as well, BBC reported.
The leaders of 25 European nations believe a crackdown against terrorism is unavoidable and a raft of anti-terrorism measures is expected to be unveiled at next week’s summit.
The Netherlands and four other nations were reprimanded by the European Commission on Monday because they have not yet adopted EU legislation permitting the immediate extradition of suspected criminals.
The EU passed the legislation soon after the September 11 attacks in the US as part of the international war against terrorism, Radio Netherlands reported.
Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner expects the Dutch Upper House of Parliament, Eerste Kamer, will approve the legislation later this month.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news