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Dutch prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende leaves a meeting with Queen Beatrix
Balkenende, right, wouldn't say anything after he'd met Queen BeatrixImage: AP

Dutch collapse

February 22, 2010

Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands has met with leading politicians to decide whether to accept the government's weekend resignation. The monarch has the power to call early elections or appoint an interim government.


The queen met Monday with outgoing Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, who heads the Christian Democratic Party, and the leaders of the Labor Party and the smaller Christian Union, as well as the presidents of the two chambers of parliament.

Queen Beatrix's decision about whether to accept Balkenende's resignation and appoint an interim government is expected within the next few days.

The government collapsed on Saturday after 16 hours of tough negotiations when the Labor Party refused to back fellow coalition members in supporting the extension of the Dutch military presence in Afghanistan.

A defeat for both parties

“We've experienced this failure both individually and collectively as a defeat. This doesn't change anything about the facts or the conclusions we have reached,” Balkenende said.

The outgoing prime minister said he expected the Netherlands to withdraw its 2,000 soldiers from Afghanistan in August as scheduled, but he also voiced concern about the impact of the withdrawal on his country's international standing.

"The moment the Netherlands says as sole and first country we will no longer have activities at the end of 2010, it will raise questions in other countries and this really pains me," he said.

NATO urges Dutch to reconsider

In an initial reaction to the collapse of the ruling coalition, NATO on Saturday renewed its call for Dutch troops to remain in Afghanistan for an additional 12 months in a reduced capacity.

Earlier this month, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen issued a formal request for the Netherlands to assume a new training role and postpone withdrawing its troops. This new military mission would focus on the provincial reconstruction team in Uruzgan, with greater emphasis on training.

The Netherlands' military mission in Afghanistan began in August 2006, and has already been extended by two years. Twenty-one Dutch soldiers have lost their lives in Afghanistan.

Editor: Michael Lawton

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