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Dutch to withdraw troops from Iraq in March
Updated: 2004-11-13 08:22

The Dutch cabinet has decided to bring home the 1,350 Dutch troops in Iraq in March next year, confirming a decision first made in June, the Dutch news agency ANP cited Defense Minister Henk Kamp as saying on Friday.

The Netherlands first sent troops to Iraq in August 2003 and won parliamentary approval this summer to extend their stay until March 2005.

Iraq's interim administration wants to hold elections in January despite mounting violence, and the Netherlands has come under increasing U.S. and British pressure to keep its troops there after March.

Foreign Minister Bernard Bot recently suggested that might be possible in unforeseeable circumstances, but Kamp said the cabinet had ruled that out.

The Netherlands is a strong ally of the United States, but public opinion is divided on its mission in Iraq. Two Dutch soldiers have died in Iraq, one in May and one in August.

The Dutch troops are based at Samawa in southern Iraq with orders to help with reconstruction and provide security and stability in a region where Japan has sent 550 non-combat troops to help rebuild the country.

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