Dutch minister: arming Libyan rebels ill-advised

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The Dutch government says it would be ‘undesirable and ill-advised’ if other NATO countries were to arm the Libyan rebels.

Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal made this remark during Thursday’s parliamentary debate on the expansion of the Dutch mission to include enforcing the UN no fly zone. At present, the Dutch F-16s stationed in Italy are limited to enforcing the arms embargo against Libya.

The cabinet argues that arming the rebels would be ill-advised because it is not quite clear who these rebels really are as well as undesirable because it would disrupt the international community’s joint approach regarding the Libyan regime. “It is not an issue for the Netherlands at this particular moment”, the foreign minister said. The Netherlands wants to put its weight behind a uniform policy and command structure for the NATO mission.

The Christian democratic CDA and the Lab our Party feel NATO should exercise caution regarding its military operations in Libya. They are opposed to NATO trying to overthrow the Libyan regime. The two parties say such a change should be brought about by the Libyan people, not by the international community.

The democrat party D66 wants the cabinet to state what role it believes the Netherlands could play in the future of Libya and the rest of the Arab region before the party decides whether or not to support the mission. D66 leader Alexander Pechtold emphasised that popular support is of paramount importance because a long-term commitment to the region would be required.

The Green Left party fees a contribution should be made to the NATO mission but said it still had a lot of questions. The Socialist Party, the Freedom Party PVV and the Animal Rights Party are all opposed to the mission.

The Socialist Party is mainly concerned about how the UN resolution is being implemented and pointed to the many cruise missiles that have been fired at Libya. The PVV – which provides parliamentary support to the VVD-CDA minority cabinet – feels the Netherlands is slowly being dragged into a protracted war.

Armed forces commander General Peter van Uhm told parliament that the Dutch F-16s enforcing the arms embargo and the no-fly zone will be armed with missiles only, as a result of the decision not to take part in air strikes on ground targets.

Some parties have questioned the limitations that have been placed on the jet fighters’ armaments. The conservative VVD, the Labour Party and the Christian Union wanted to know whether this would pose additional risks to the safety of the pilots if they came under attack or whether they would be unable to take action against ground targets when necessary.

Minister Rosenthal said the cabinet is not opposed to Dutch F-16s attacking ground targets on principle, but told parliament that it became apparent during discussions with NATO that helping to enforce the no-fly zone was ‘a suitable contribution’ for the Dutch air force to make in view of the contributions already being made by other NATO member states.


© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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