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Wednesday, 17 April, 2002, 15:25 GMT 16:25 UK
Dutch press split on cabinet resignation
Wim Kok (centre) leaves parliament after announcing the resignation of his government
Left-wing papers praised Wim Kok's decision to resign

The resignation of the Dutch Government over the report into the Srebrenica massacre has been welcomed in some quarters but met with cynicism in others.

Left-leaning newspapers in the Netherlands tend to praise Prime Minister Wim Kok's decision to step down, less than a month before a general election.

More conservative dailies take a more cynical view, however, and there is concern that important decisions will be delayed.

The left-wing Trouw newspaper characterises Mr Kok's resignation as a "just decision".

It says that the prime minister had done right by the victims in taking this on his shoulders - even if it doesn't begin to make it up to them.

But the Protestant daily does note that parliament would have asked him to resign anyway later. Nevertheless, the paper hopes that this kind of responsible behaviour will be shown by other politicians in the future.

NRC Handelsblad, however, says that internal cabinet disputes over the report - like the threatened resignations of Environment Minister Jan Pronk and Defence Minister Frank de Grave - made the resignation unavoidable.

The heart of the matter is the tragedy in the Balkans, not the political fall-out in the Netherlands

Institute director Hans Blom
The NRC wonders why the atmosphere in the parliament was one of relief instead of shame, bitterness or sadness.

But it does welcome parliament's debating the matter, criticising the cabinet for keeping the issue behind closed doors before it stepped down.

Volkskrant is more sympathetic, describing Kok, who was prime minister when the tragedy occurred in 1995, as a "father-figure".

The left-leaning daily laments that the prime minister's name will not only be linked with the cutting of unemployment and the national deficit, but also with the Srebrenica affair.

But the paper hopes that future historians will have eyes for his qualities as a statesman and a leader, as well as for Srebrenica. Volkskrant also commends Mr Kok for being decent to the end, noting that it is the first time a Dutch cabinet has stepped down without being forced to by parliament or internal splits.

For its part, the centre-right Algemeen Dagblad welcomes the fall of the government.

"Kok has finally done what has been necessary for years - take responsibility for the situation that led to the tragedy in July 1995," it writes.

It asked the director of the institute which wrote the Srebrenica report, Hans Blom, for his reaction.

Dramatic decision within sight of the finish line

De Telegraaf
"The heart of the matter is the tragedy in the Balkans, not the political fall-out in the Netherlands," the head of the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation said.

It also sees no problems for the country while it waits for a new government to be formed.

The Rotterdam-based daily says that if MPs do their jobs, they can ensure that important matters are immediately taken up by the new government.

It specifically mentions a proposal to send peacekeepers to Macedonia.

The business daily Het Financieele Dagblad doesn't agree, worrying that there are pressing issues that shouldn't wait until after the 15 May election.

It believes that decisions on the privatisation of Amsterdam's Schipol airport and oil exploration in Wadden Sea shouldn't be delayed.

But the tabloid De Telegraaf dismisses any concerns - because ministers will stay in office in a caretaker capacity.

The paper calls it a "dramatic decision within sight of the finish line", predicting business as usual until the general elections - in four weeks' time.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

The BBC's Chris Morris
"The Netherlands tried to help in Bosnia but it failed"
Liberal MP in Holland, Oussama Cherribe
"Dutch politics is based on a high moral standard"
See also:

10 Apr 02 | Europe
Srebrenica blame 'must be shared'
10 Apr 02 | Europe
Srebrenica report: Excerpts
02 Aug 01 | Europe
Q&A: Srebrenica massacre
10 Apr 02 | Europe
Identifying Srebrenica's victims

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