Dutch Government collapses over country's Afghanistan military mission

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Amsterdam (The Netherlands), Feb.20 (ANI): The Netherlands' coalition government has collapsed over the country's military mission in Afghanistan, the country's Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said.

The Daily Express quoted Balkenende, as saying that the second largest party in his coalition was quitting the government over irreconcilable differences over the Afghan deployment.

Balkenende made no mention of elections, but the resignation of the Labour Party would leave his government with an unworkable majority.

Saturday's announcement came after a marathon 16-hour Cabinet meeting in which the three-party alliance remained deeply divided over whether to keep a trimmed down military presence in Uruzgan province or to pull out when the mission expired in August.

Balkenende tried to delay the decision, but Wouter Bos, the finance minister and leader of the Labour Party, demanded an immediate ruling.

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

The split came after a build-up of tension over several weeks between Balkenende and Bos, mainly over Afghanistan and the government's earlier political support for the war in Iraq.

Balkenende said his Christian Democratic Alliance would continue in office with the small Christian Union and would "make available" Labour's seats in the Cabinet.

Political analysts said early elections appeared inevitable.

The coalition, elected to a four-year term, would have marked its third year in office on Monday. (ANI)

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