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Pressure mounting on Dutch to join Syria air strikes

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The Hague: Pressure is mounting on the Netherlands to join US-led air strikes against Islamic State extremists in Syria, with several lawmakers joining calls for a bombing campaign.

The Dutch cabinet however said it will reach a decision to take part in the US-led operation only once “all military and political aspects” of the Syrian conflict had been discussed.

“As far as we are concerned it’s high time action is taken against IS in Syria,” Raymond de Roon of the far-right Freedom Party (PVV) told a late-evening meeting of Parliament’s Commission for Foreign Affairs.

“It will be good to see a stop being put to IS’s Syrian pipeline,” added Han ten Broeke, lawmaker for Prime Minister’s Mark Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD).

Four Dutch F-16 jet fighters have been pounding IS jihadists in Iraq since October last year, but The Hague at the time said it would not carry out air strikes over Syria without a UN mandate.

Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders told the meeting that requests have been received from both France and the United States to join the coalition in bombing the Islamic State group in Syria.

“The Netherlands is a small country that’s been very active in the fight against IS,” he said.

“But we can only make that decision once all military and political aspects in Syria have been properly weighed,” said Koenders, who indicated it may still take some time.

Prime Minister Rutte’s ruling coalition has been divided over the issue, Dutch newspaper reports said Thursday.

MPs belonging to Rutte’s VVD are supporting air strikes in Syria, the centre-left daily De Volkskrant said.

Foreign Minister Koenders however, a Labour Party (PvdA) member, had “strong reservations,” the paper said.

It added that Koenders preferred a political solution first over Syria’s future.

Dutch top military commander, General Tom Middendorp has been calling for air strikes to broaden out into Syria.

“There has been a strong call from the international coalition to deal a blow against IS,” Middendorp told lawmakers earlier yesterday.

“Bombing IS in Iraq is a bit like treating the symptoms of the disease and not the disease itself,” he added.

Observers say Britain’s decision on Wednesday to join the US-led bombing campaign over Syria added further pressure on the Dutch to join the campaign.

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