Citizen's arrest of Tony Blair fails

Protesters outside the venue where former British Prime Minister Tony Blair speaks to an audience during his speaking tour, Eden Park, Auckland. Photo / NZPA
Protesters outside the venue where former British Prime Minister Tony Blair speaks to an audience during his speaking tour, Eden Park, Auckland. Photo / NZPA

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair gave out advice to Rupert Murdoch, praised New Zealand resilience after the Christchurch earthquakes and showed his admiration for the All Blacks during a speech at Eden Park in Auckland today.

While protesters called from outside the ground for his arrest, alleging he had committed war crimes over the invasion of Iraq, Mr Blair spoke to business and civic leaders who paid up to $1000 before ticket prices were halved because of slow sales.

After the price cut the event became a sellout, organisers said.

Mr Blair spoke for 30 minutes to about 500 people on various topics, including his experience in office, issues such as faith and globalisation, the Middle East peace process and climate change.

He praised New Zealand's resilience in recovering from the Christchurch earthquakes, and said the way it was handled showed "dignity and resolve''.

He also spoke of his excitement to be at Eden Park and wished he could be in New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup.

The All Blacks were an inspiration to most people, wherever they were from, he said.

He also talked about global problems, including the economic crisis and world security issues.

Mr Blair believed progress could be made to stabilise the Middle East, and world powers needed to take a more complex view of the situation.

Others did not share his optimism for the Middle East, Mr Blair said.

A session followed where Mr Blair fielded various questions, including some about the highlights of his time in office -- the Good Friday Agreement and Britain's successful Olympic bid. The Good Friday agreement was a major political development in the Northern Ireland peace process.

When asked what his advice would be to embattled media mogul Rupert Murdoch, Mr Blair said it was all about "crisis management''.

He said the most important thing was to admit mistakes were made and then try to fix them quickly.

When questioned, Mr Blair agreed his government did not do enough to stabilise banking ahead of the financial crisis.

"We didn't spot it coming. If we had spotted it we would have done something about it,'' he said.

Mr Blair was asked if he would have done anything differently before the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

He said he wished he had realised that removing totalitarian regimes involved a "long struggle''.

A group of anti-war protesters gathered outside Eden Park in an attempt to put him under citizen's arrest.

They yelled that Mr Blair was a war criminal, but they didn't get close to him when he arrived today.

A heavy police presence kept protesters out of Eden Park and Mr Blair entered through a different gate.

From the street they called on Attorney General Chris Finlayson to have Mr Blair arrested for war crimes committed during the invasion of Iraq.

Global Peace and Justice Auckland spokesman John Minto said Mr Blair was guilty of war crimes punishable under New Zealand law.

Mr Blair did not stay long in Auckland, and was quickly whisked away to catch a flight to Brisbane where he has another speaking engagement tonight.


- NZPA

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