MPs sworn to secrecy over captured soldiers

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Leaders of the Netherlands' main political parties had been told in advance about the failed evacuation operation in which three soldiers were captured by pro-Gaddafi forces. The three troops landed near the port of Sirte to pick up a Dutchman and another European citizen who were working in Libya.

News agency ANP said sources had confirmed that the government had let various party members know about the situation but had stressed the need to keep the information secret.

A special 'secret commission' on security and intelligence - comprising of a number of MPs - has convened to hammer out a negotiation strategy. Political analysts say the commission will also have to consider easing public pressure on Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi while talks are going on.

Secrecy Everything discussed by the commission is considered classified and may not be disclosed during parliamentary debates. Party leaders are entitled to refuse to attend the secret meetings, to uphold the right to bring up the matter during parliamentary sessions.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte said news of the men's capture had initially been kept quiet. The soldiers were captured on Sunday but the news only came out on Thursday, to assist talks on their release. He said that this kind of situation benefits more from total secrecy to ensure the safe return of the soldiers.

Surprised The rescue helicopter flew in from Dutch warship Tromp, which was initially to have taken part in an anti-piracy operation off the coast of Somalia. It changed course and headed for the Libyan coast on 24 February.

The port city of Sirte is considered the main remaining stronghold of Colonel Gaddafi in the centre of the country, as he struggles with a spreading revolt against his rule. Many people are surprised at the Dutch action because of the dangers of landing near Sirte.

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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