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Dutch government falls over Afghanistan mission

The Dutch government coalition collapsed early Saturday over a NATO request to extend the country's military mission to Afghanistan, Radio Nethelands Worldwide reported.

In a statement announcing his cabinet's fall, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said he would visit Queen Beatrice later in the day to offer the resignation of the Labour Party members of his government.

"As chairman of this government, I was forced to establish there is no fruitful road for this cabinet to continue," said Balkenende after a 16-hour marathon meeting failed to save the three-party coalition.

He added that this week's remarks by Labour, demanding a rejection of NATO's request to remain active in the Afghan province of Uruzghan, "placed a political mortgage" on the coalition's cooperation and blocked a well-balanced debate about the extension of the mission in the Asian country.

The leading coalition party, Balkenende's Christian Democrats, supported extending the military mission, which is due to end in August.