Brash leaned toward troop involvement

National Party leader Don Brash now says it was his "inclination" to send troops to Iraq when the United States, Britain and Australia launched the war.

On Tuesday night on TV3, Dr Brash refused to answer questions about whether he would have sent troops if he had been prime minister at the time, though he told the Herald that there was very little difference between National and Labour's position on Iraq.

He has been under attack from Labour, which has run advertisements quoting a remark he once made about sending troops - that he would have done the same thing as US President George W. Bush.

TV3 News, which failed to get any answers from Dr Brash on Tuesday, reported last night that senior National Party MPs were unhappy with the way he had handled interviews on the subject.

Asked whether he would have sent troops without a United Nations mandate - which did not exist when the war was launched - he replied: "That was my inclination, yes."

Asked why he could not say that on Tuesday, he said the issue was being used at the time by Prime Minister Helen Clark to divert attention from the Government's tertiary education review.

Dr Brash said a National-led government might follow the United States' lead in foreign policy, but only if it was in New Zealand's best interests to do so.

"In some circumstances we might certainly go with the United States but we make that judgment in the light of what's in New Zealand's best interests," he said.

Helen Clark responded to Dr Brash's latest remarks by saying he was being very evasive about sending combat troops to Iraq.

"He clearly would like to send them [but] he knows the New Zealand public is totally opposed to that," she said.

- NZPA

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