November 14th, 2007 08:27 EST
Dutch say they made No Decision to Extend Military Stay in Afghanistan
The Dutch Ministry of Defense denied a report the government had decided to extend the stay of its military forces in Afghanistan, a move that would circumvent a parliamentary vote due at the end of the month.
The Afghan Defense Ministry cited Dutch Defense Minister Eimert van Middelkoop, currently visiting Dutch troops in the country, as saying that the 1,700 soldiers will remain until Afghan forces have set up an ``independent defense,`` Agence- France Presse reported today.
``We strongly deny it, it`s nonsense,`` Otte Beeksma, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry in The Hague, said by phone. Van Middelkoop did meet the Afghan Defense Minister, General Abdul Rahim Wardak, in Kabul today, Beeksma said. AFP later corrected its story.
Van Middelkoop told Rahim he hopes the Dutch government will soon decide on an extension of the stay, said Beeksma. A Cabinet decision to extend the military mandate beyond August 2008 is due by the end of this month, followed by a parliamentary vote on the matter, he said.
The Dutch soldiers are part of a NATO-led coalition force of 41,000 troops attempting to stabilize Afghanistan and rebuild infrastructure destroyed by more than 25 years of conflict and civil war.
To contact the reporter on this story: Jurjen van de Pol in Amsterdam firstname.lastname@example.org .
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