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Dutch News
"Netherlands is needed in Afghanistan" 3/16/2007
AMSTERDAM – The Afghan speaker of Parliament Yunus Qanuni wants the Netherlands to stay involved in Afghanistan for a longer time, both in a military and humanitarian capacity.

Qanuni said this after a meeting with Development Cooperation Minister Bert Koenders in The Hague on Wednesday.

The military mission is set to end in August 2008, according to the agreement between the government and Parliament. Qanuni did not give any indication of how long he thinks the Netherlands should stay.

The speaker of the parliament in Kabul said he appreciated the commitment from the troops in Afghanistan, whose mission it is to contribute to stability in the war-torn country. He said security is crucial for building up democracy.

Qanuni said combating poppy cultivation and the drug trade was one of the greatest challenges faced by his country. He agrees with the Netherlands that a careful strategy is needed. In the past the approach has been to work upwards, first taking on the farmers and then dealing with the drug barons, but that is going to work the other way round from now on, Qanuni said.

Koenders voiced criticism to Qanuni about the controversial Afghan pardon arrangement. This allows warlords who have committed major crimes to escape prosecution, for instance. The Netherlands is very unhappy with the new law. "It means that people with blood on their hands walk free. That is bad for the victims and a bad sign for the future of Afghanistan," Koenders said.

But Qanuni says the new arrangement is the only way to bring stability to the country. Besides, it does not mean that all criminals are exempt from prosecution, he said. Not everyone is eligible for the pardon.

Qanuni also talked with Defence Minister Eimert van Middelkoop, speaker of Parliament Gerdi Verbeet and MPs. The Afghan did not comment on what was said in these talks.

[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2007]

Subject: Dutch news

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