Dutch minister quits over sex claims

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The Dutch deputy defence minister said he had resigned on Friday amid media reports of an extramarital affair with a subordinate.

Jack De Vries said in a statement distributed by the ministry that he had told Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende and the Defence Minister Eimert van Middelkoop of his resignation.

He added that he would not stand in parliamentary elections due after June 9.

De Vries cited "continuing media pressure" and said he did not wish to harm the majority-holding Christian Democratic party, for which he is described as the main campaign strategist.

Dutch newspapers have reported that De Vries was kicked out of the house by his wife recently over an affair with his personal aide, and was living in a barracks in The Hague.

Military labour unions subsequently said they had lost all confidence in De Vries as a negotiating partner.

Van Middelkoop and Balkenende both said they "respected" De Vries' decision, which has to be officially accepted by Queen Beatrix.

"It is a painful but wise decision," Van Middelkoop said in a statement.

The Netherlands have around 1,950 troops deployed in Afghanistan under the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

Dutch troops are set to start withdrawing from Uruzgan in August, to be completed by year-end. The Dutch government collapsed in February in a spat over whether to extend the deployment.

© 2010 AFP

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