Blair broached Iraq at funeral: Clark

By Audrey Young

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair used the Queen Mother's funeral in April 2002 to first sound out New Zealand about the invasion of Iraq, says Prime Minister Helen Clark.

He raised it in a meeting with her, the Australian Prime Minister at the time, John Howard, and Canada's then Prime Minister, Jean Chretien. The invasion began on March 20, 2003.

Helen Clark made the revelationin an interview with the Herald this week on her leadership, domestically and in international forums.

"I said I didn't think that was something New Zealand would want to be involved in, so we never let anyone think that we could go there."

Helen Clark believed that New Zealand had earned a reputation for being "a very direct Government" on the world stage.

"If there's issues, we raise it. You don't go to Beijing for the [free-trade agreement] signing three weeks after riots in Tibet and say nothing. You have to ... raise the issue."

She said it was very important that New Zealand not be misleading because the United States' view that it had been misled by former Labour Prime Minister David Lange over the anti-nuclear issue had led to bitterness.

Asked what she was most proud of in international leadership, Helen Clark cited her achievement of first getting climate change on the Apec agenda, at the 2006 Vietnam summit, getting New Zealand into the East Asia Summit groups at its inception, the stronger relationship with Europe and improvement in the relationship with the United States.

The greatest satisfaction she claims domestically from her prime ministership is "lifting living standards".

"When you are Prime Minister through an era that ends up with 350,000 more people in work and you've lifted the minimum wages and extended Working for Families to 370,000 families ... you've got to feel you've had an impact on living standards of the most vulnerable people."

- NZ Herald

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