Dutch government collapses over Afghan mission

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
February 20, 2010 06:08

 
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Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said the second largest party in his coalition is quitting the government over irreconcilable differences on whether to extend the Netherlands' military mission in Afghanistan.

Balkenende made no mention of elections. However, the resignation of the Labor Party would leave his government with an unworkable majority. The announcement came early Saturday after a marathon 16-hour cabinet meeting.

Labor demanded that Dutch soldiers leave Uruzgan province when their mandate expires in August. Balkenende's Christian Democratic Alliance wanted to keep a trimmed down military presence in Uruzgan.

The Dutch mission to the restive southern province began in August 2006. Since then 21 Dutch soldiers have been killed there.

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