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Published: Tuesday May 27, 2014 MYT 5:55:02 PM
Updated: Tuesday May 27, 2014 MYT 5:56:07 PM

Dutch minister plans Saudi trip to avert trade sanctions

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Dutch foreign minister will visit Saudi Arabia to try to prevent trade sanctions against the Netherlands in response to anti-Islamic stickers by populist Geert Wilders, an official said.

Frans Timmermans will travel to Riyadh to make clear that Wilders' views are his own and do not represent the position of the Dutch government, spokesman Ahmed Dadou said on Tuesday.

The Saudi authorities have not announced any official sanctions on the Netherlands, one of the Gulf Arab kingdom's largest investors. But Saudi media reported last week that measures had already been imposed on Dutch companies.

The decision to send a key member of the Dutch government came just days after a top Dutch diplomat travelled to Saudi Arabia to meet officials in Riyadh.

Wilders, the leader of the opposition, anti-immigration Dutch Freedom Party, known by its Dutch acronym PVV, came in second place in Dutch elections for the European Parliament last week.

Wilders, who wants to halt immigration from Islamic countries to the Netherlands and exit the European Union, printed stickers in the colours of the Saudi flag in December bearing slogans derogatory to Islam.

Bilateral trade between the countries came to nearly $5 billion in 2010 and the Netherlands accounted for nearly 4 percent of foreign direct investment in Saudi Arabia that year, the Dutch government said.

(Reporting By Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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