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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 January 2006, 17:26 GMT
Dutch pressured on Afghan mission
UK forces in Helmand
A coalition party is opposing the Dutch troops' deployment
International pressure has been mounting on the Netherlands to send troops to southern Afghanistan.

The EU ambassador to Afghanistan, Francesc Vendrell says the Dutch decision to send more troops is important for EU's credibility.

But the decision has been stalled by a small centrist coalition partner in the government opposing the mission.

On Monday, Nato Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer urged the Dutch to be quick in resolving the issue.

A plan to send around 1,400 troops to the volatile south of the country will be debated by the Dutch parliament later this month.

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"It is extremely important for the credibility of the European Union that we should be willing to go to difficult areas," Francesc Vendrell said.

He criticised other European nations for their unwillingness to move to the more dangerous parts of Afghanistan.

'Too passive'

"We obviously need forces in places where there is insecurity," Mr Vendrell said.

"Occasionally one wonders if some governments think sending forces to Afghanistan is the equivalent of a parade down The Mall or down the Champs-Elysees," he said.

"There is always the complaint by the Afghans that we are perhaps a little bit too passive and not willing to be pro-active," Mr Vendrell said. "This perception would be strengthened if the Netherlands found it impossible to send forces to the south."

On Wednesday, the Dutch media reported that the country's Chief of Defence Staff Dick Berlijn said participation in the second phase of the Isaf operation was crucial.

"All parties agree that it is not enough to concentrate purely on the hardcore Taleban," Gen Berlijn told the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad.

"If you want to render the country stable, you must make a start on reconstruction," he said.


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