Dutch govt offers concessions on Afghan mission

AMSTERDAM Thu Jan 27, 2011 11:57pm IST

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AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The minority Dutch government on Thursday amended the terms of its proposed new mission to Afghanistan in a last-minute bid to win wider parliamentary support for the deployment.

The previous government in the Netherlands fell a year ago over whether to pull troops out of Afghanistan, and within months the Dutch forces had been repatriated.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who heads a minority coalition, now faces considerable opposition to his proposal to send in a police training mission.

Parliament was scheduled to vote on the proposal on Thursday but the vote could be postponed, a spokeswoman for the parliament said.

Rutte's minority Liberal-Christian Democrat coalition relies on the support of Geert Wilders' anti-Islam party, which has already said it will vote against the proposal. Losing the parliamentary vote would be a blow for Rutte's government ahead of provincial elections in March.

In an effort to win support of opposition parties, the government agreed to increase the training of Afghan police recruits in the northern province of Kunduz to 18 weeks from six weeks to improve the quality of the training.

The government also said that police recruits would receive training on human, women's and children's rights, and on issues of integrity, in addition to the regular police and weapons training and advice on combatting terrorism.

The outcome of the parliamentary vote is still uncertain, with the left-leaning Green party demanding further concessions.

"The Cabinet has listened well," said Green party leader Jolande Sap, but demanded a "rock-hard guarantee" that trained police officers will not engage in military exercises.

(Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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