Defence minister survives debate

Defence minister Eimert van Middelkoop easily survived a no-confidence motion in parliament on Thursday night over his statements on the Netherlands’ involvement in Afghanistan.

Van Middelkoop told MPs he had made a mistake when he denied approving an article in the Telegraaf in which he said the Netherlands would pull out of Afghanistan as planned in August 2010.
US president Barack Obama could phone him 10 times, but the Netherlands would stand firm, the minister was reported as saying.
Pressed on Thursday night to say whether or not Dutch troops would stay in Afghanistan past the deadline, Van Middelkoop said that the Netherlands would end its leading role in the country on August 1 next year.
Both prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende and foreign minister Maxime Verhagen have suggested that the door is open for other options.
‘We will end our role as a lead nation in the task force in 2010, the end of 2010, but its also clear that the Netherlands will be involved in rebuilding Afghanistan for many years to come,’ Verhagen said during an interview on ABC’s Radio Australia earlier this week.

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