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Dutch Prince Told to ‘Keep Quiet’

March 7, 2001

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) _ The prime minister reproached Crown Prince Willem-Alexander on Wednesday for his clumsy defense of his girlfriend’s father, telling the heir to the throne to ``keep quiet about the matter.″

The Dutch government’s rare public criticism of the royal house followed the prince’s remarks about Jorge Zorreguieta, his Argentine girlfriend’s father, during a news conference Tuesday in New York. Some parliament members called the prince’s comments ``painful″ and ``incomprehensible.″

Zorreguieta has been targeted by the Dutch media because he served as agriculture minister for two years during the 1976-83 dictatorship of Argentine President Jorge Videla. At least 9,000 people disappeared in the junta’s military crackdown on left-wing opponents and dissidents, according to U.N. reports.

At the news conference, the prince contested the credibility of two authors who recently published a book on the Videla regime that claimed Zorreguieta played an active role in the dictatorship and helped plan the coup that put Videla in power.

``El Dictador,″ based on interviews with 120 sources including Videla, countered the widely held view that Zorreguieta was not involved in Argentina’s so-called ``dirty war.″

According to media reports, the prince asked journalists to be more comprehensive in their reporting, and referred them to a letter published in the Argentine newspaper ``La Nacion″ on Feb. 27. When asked who wrote the letter, the prince said he did not know.

The comment proved embarrassing when Dutch reporters learned the letter was written by Videla and repeated the ex-dictator’s denials of any wrongdoing.

Prime Minister Wim Kok told national television he had been surprised by the prince’s comments and said ``it would have been wiser if the prince had not said anything.″

He added, ``I have asked him to keep quiet about the matter.″

Although no engagement has been announced between the prince and his girlfriend Maxima, some legislators have suggested that if there is a royal wedding, Zorreguieta should be told to stay away.

Under Dutch law, Parliament must approve royal marriages.

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