Dutch MPs to extend NATO Libya mission

A large majority of Dutch MPs has voted in favour of extending the NATO mission in Libya by another three months. Six F-16 fighter planes, a mine sweeper and more than 200 Dutch troops have participated in the mission since it began at the end of March. Dutch military personnel have also flown in AWACS radar planes.

The decision of the minority VVD and Christian Democrat (CDA) coalition was supported by the Labour Party (PvdA), Green Left, Christian Union and SGP in parliament. The government's support party the Freedom Party and opposition party the Socialist Party (SP) opposed extending the military operation.

The Christian Democrats said this extension had to be the last one. But Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal said it would be a bad sign to indicate at this stage that the mission could not be extended a third time.

The SP said the objective of the mission had been continually stretched. MP Harry van Bommel said the NATO has turned into an air force for Libya's new leaders. Minister Rosenthal disagreed, saying although Muammar Gaddafi has disappeared, Libya is still not free and fighting is still going on in the cities.

The objective of mission Unified Protector is to protect the Libyan population, monitor a no-fly zone above Libya and enforce a weapons embargo. The mission began at the end of March after Gaddafi began crushing an uprising against his leadership following revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt.

There was criticism in parliament that MPs had only been informed by letter about the decision to extend the mission one day ahead of the previous mandate expiring. Minister Rosenthal conceded that the matter could have been dealt with better and agreed to improve procedures.

The Netherlands has also promised one million euros for a United Nations support mission in Libya, as well as another one million euros for development organisation Handicap International to clear landmines in the war-torn country.

[Source: Radio Netherlands Worldwide, 28Sep11]

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