Labour Party withdraws from Dutch coalition government

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The Dutch coalition government has collapsed, after the two largest parties failed to agree on the withdrawal of the country's troops from Afghanistan.

Labour Party leader Wouter Bos says his party has decided it can no longer be part of the government.

Wouter Bos, Dutch Finance Minister, said, "It was not easy to decide this. We have been fighting for a credible decision about the Dutch presence in Uruzgan and to ensure the government stuck to the plan, but we have failed in this."

Netherlands' Finance Minister and Labour Party leader Wouter Bos, flanked by his party members, announces his party's withdrawal from Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's three-party alliance in The Hague February 20, 2010. REUTERS/Stringer

Netherlands' Finance Minister and Labour Party leader Wouter Bos,flanked by his party members, announces his party's withdrawal from Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's three-party alliance in The Hague February 20, 2010. 

The resignation leaves Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's government with just 47 seats in the 150-member parliament. Balkenende, the member of the center-right Christian Democratic Alliance says the Labour Party was unwilling to compromise on a scheduled withdrawal date.

Jan Peter Balkenende, Dutcvh Prime Minister, said, "Where there is no trust, it is difficult to work together. There is no road along which this cabinet can go further."

The fall of the EU member country's government leaves the future of its 1,600 soldiers fighting in Afghanistan uncertain. Dutch soldiers have been deployed since 2006 in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan. Their two-year stint had been extended until next August. Balkenende's party wanted to keep a trimmed-down military presence in the restive province, but Labour was adamant that the Dutch troops leave as scheduled.

Balkenende's minority cabinet will continue as a caretaker government until a new coalition is formed. By law an election must be held within 83 days and by custom it is on a Wednesday, so the poll is likely on May the 11th.

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