Hawks, doves take wing on Iraq plans

By AUDREY YOUNG

Prime Minister Helen Clark has not committed New Zealand to endorsing either of the two proposals on Iraq to be considered by the United Nations Security Council.

But she has lent more sympathy to the France-German position giving the diplomatic and weapons inspection process more time than to the United States and British resolution setting the stage for war.

"It is clear there are very advanced war plans and that certainly from the point of view of the UK and Australia they would prefer to have some kind of UN resolution," Helen Clark said yesterday.

"But other countries, and we include ourselves, are much more interested in trying to get through this diplomatically."

National and Act believe New Zealand should endorse the US/Britain proposal, while the Greens and the Progressives favour the French-German line.

New Zealand First says it does not have enough information and the Government is suppressing parliamentary debate.

United Future believes New Zealand should broker a new "intermediate" resolution.

National's foreign affairs spokesman, Wayne Mapp, said the Government's failure to endorse the resolution was "letting Iraq off the hook".

United Future leader Peter Dunne said the new proposals were unacceptable.

The US/Britain proposal was "far too blunt" and "an invitation to imminent attack". But the four-month timeframe in the Franco-German proposal was "unrealistically long".

New Zealand should be trying to broker a 28-day deadline.

Progressive deputy leader Matt Robson said New Zealand should not support the US/Britain resolution.

"They are trying to rewrite the UN charter to smuggle into it the right to pre-emptive strike."

Act deputy leader Ken Shirley said the new resolution was "an incredible challenge for the United Nations and its relevancy".

"Saddam Hussein, through cunning and deceitfulness, has thumbed his nose at the UN for 12 years."

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters wanted more debate on the issue.

"Here we are not being given any say in the process though it is a matter that could involve us in war in a matter of weeks."

In Parliament yesterday, Green foreign affairs spokesman Keith Locke accused the Government of being "complicit" in the build-up to war against Iraq, saying the frigate Te Kaha had been escorting Iraq-bound US warships in the Strait of Hormuz, despite the Government's insistence that it was not involved.

Mr Locke produced a photograph from the Navy's latest in-house magazine Navy Today showing Te Kaha escorting the US transport ship Watkins during Operation Enduring Freedom.

But Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff said Te Kaha's role was in counter-terrorist activities. "A small part of that role involves escort duties designed to protect shipping from terrorist attack in the Gulf of Oman and the Straits of Hormuz."

Mr Locke: "How can we be seen as being anything other than complicit in the US build-up to war against Iraq when we are escorting a boat like the Watkins, called a floating brigade that can carry an entire year's army-armoured taskforce, including 58 tanks, 48 other track vehicles, plus more than 900 trucks, and other wheeled vehicles, and which has been unloading materials in the Gulf for the US war effort?"

Te Kaha's tour of duty ends today and it will be replaced by Te Mana.

Herald Feature: Iraq

Iraq links and resources

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