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Opposition Takes Aim at Defence Policy

The opposition parties were critical of the government's security and defence policy report which was presented in Parliament on Tuesday.

Chairman of the National Coalition, Jyrki Katainen wanted a clearer position on possible NATO membership.

He also said that giving up anti-personnel landmines by 2012 was far too early.

The Left Alliance's Chair, Suvi-Anne Siimes, was more harsh in her criticism. She even accused the government of hiding information, such as how or where Finnish forces would be used in an EU military operation.

She even hinted that leaving this information out may be an election ploy.

After a preliminary debate, legislators will decide whether the review goes to the Foreign Affairs or Defence Committee.

Prime Minister Vanhanen said the Security and Defence Report emphasises Finland's military non-aligned status. However, it does not rule out possible future membership in NATO.

The main points of the review are:

- Finland's Defence Forces are to cut 1,200 jobs by the year 2012.

- Finland will join the Ottawa Treaty banning anti-personnel land mines in 2012. The last stock will be destroyed in 2016.

- An amendment is needed in the Constitution to allow Finnish peacekeepers to participate in other than United Nations- or OSCE-mandated peacekeeping operations.

- The military doctrine stays the same: regional defence is based on a large reserve army founded on conscription.

Finnish News Agency, YLE24