Netherlands to stick to its Afghanistan pullout plan 2009-03-26 20:44:29   Print

    BRUSSELS, March 26 (Xinhua) -- Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen has said the Netherlands will stick to its plan to withdraw troops from the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan by the end of next year, Dutch paper De Volkskrant reported Thursday.

    Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday about next week's international conference on Afghanistan in The Hague, Verhagen said the decision to end the mission in Uruzgan in 2010 is "final" and the Netherlands will not yield to Washington's pressure to keep its forces there.

    The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, who is to attend the conference next Tuesday, is also aware of the Dutch position, the Dutch minister said.

    The Netherlands has some 1,700 troops deployed in Uruzgan, one of the volatile provinces where the NATO-led International Security Assistant Force (ISAF) is directly confronted with the Taliban fighters. The Dutch mission started in August 2006 and has been extended once.

    Verhagen was positive about the security situation in Uruzgan. It is improving "a little at a time," but the progress "is not irreversible," he added.

    Prior to Tuesday's conference, Verhagen will hold talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Washington is trying to persuade European countries to provide a larger share of the ISAF in Afghanistan.

    About 80 countries, including the United States and Iran, and 20 international organizations are expected to participate in the UN-chaired conference to discuss the future strategy for Afghanistan.

Editor: Xiong Tong
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