Saddam's guard let into NZ, Peters accuses

By Ainsley Thomson

Winston Peters has named a third Iraqi living in New Zealand with connections to Saddam Hussein - a man said to be a former member of the deposed dictator's palace guards.

The New Zealand First leader said in Parliament yesterday that Isaac Meti Yosef Jago has been living in New Zealand for five years after coming here as a refugee.

Mr Peters also said that Amer Mahdi al-Khashali, a former minister in Saddam's Government who was discovered living in New Zealand this week, had been in charge of chemical weaponry production in Iraq.

Last night, the Department of Labour would not respond to any of Mr Peters' allegations.

For the past week Mr Peters has attacked the Government over lax immigration rules that have allowed "undesirable" people to enter New Zealand.

The Government has revoked the visitor's permits of Mr al-Khashali and a former Iraqi Ambassador to South Africa, Zohair Mohammad al-Omar.

Mr al-Khashali is appealing against the revocation of his permit. His lawyer, Simon Laurent, said options that would allow Mr al-Khashali to stay in New Zealand were being studied.

He said 69-year-old Mr al-Khashali had been Saddam's Minister of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform from 1979 until 1982 and had also worked for the United Nations.

 

He said that because Mr al-Khashali had been identified as a former member of Saddam's Government he would be in danger if he returned to Iraq. "[Going back] is simply not a realistic option."

Mr Peters has alleged that Mr al-Khashali came to New Zealand because he had heard about Algerian refugee Ahmed Zaoui's case and had even approached Mr Zaoui's lawyers for assistance to gain refugee status.

Yesterday, Zaoui lawyer Deborah Manning and Mr Laurent both said there was no link between the two men.

Since the immigration scandal broke, the Government has acted to tighten immigration rules, including reviewing all applications from "high-risk" countries going back two years.

On Wednesday, Department of Labour deputy secretary Mary Anne Thompson said staff had so far found five further immigration applications that were of concern.

Yesterday, Ms Thompson said two of those applications had been cleared and three were still being examined.

The review would not impact on genuine visitors and immigrants.

"This review is not about a witch hunt. It is about providing an assurance to the public of the robustness of our systems."

In Parliament yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen differentiated between "undesirable" immigrants and those who were a security risk. The SIS identified all security risks, but "undesirable" entrants were harder to identify.

Mr Peters asked if the only way the Government had to stop potential terrorists and undesirables entering New Zealand was to encourage them to wear burqas and carry Armalites.

Dr Cullen: "No. If they came in wearing burqas and carrying Armalites, we might suspect that they were New Zealand First moles."

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