Page last updated at 15:11 GMT, Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Dutch poll to be held in June after coalition collapse

A Dutch soldier in Afghanistan
Dutch forces have been in Uruzgan since 2006

The Netherlands is to hold a general election on 9 June, following the government's collapse at the weekend in a row over Afghanistan.

Disagreements within the governing coalition on extending troop deployments in Afghanistan led to the Labour Party withdrawing.

PM Jan Peter Balkenende had been considering a Nato request for Dutch forces to stay on beyond August 2010.

He will stay on as part of a caretaker government dealing with urgent matters.

"The queen has asked the outgoing cabinet to facilitate the dissolution of the lower house [of parliament] in the short term so that elections can be held on 9 June," the government communications service said in a statement.

Four-year deployment

Just fewer than 2,000 Dutch service personnel have been serving in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan since 2006, with 21 killed.

Their deployment has already been extended once.

The troops should have returned home in 2008, but they stayed on because no other Nato nation offered replacements.

The commitment is now due to end in August 2010.

The Dutch parliament voted in October 2009 that it must definitely stop by then, although the government has yet to endorse that vote.

Mr Balkenende's centre-right Christian Democrats wanted to agree to Nato's request to extend the Dutch presence in Afghanistan.

But this was bitterly opposed by the Dutch Labour Party.

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