Israeli nuclear weapons whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu has expressed an interest in becoming a New Zealander to escape persecution in his own country.

He has emailed Green Party MP Keith Locke, thanking him for starting a campaign to persuade the Government to grant him a New Zealand passport.

Describing New Zealand as a "victim of Israeli spying", he said awarding him a passport would send a message of support for nuclear disarmament in the 60th anniversary year of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

But Foreign Minister Phil Goff questions the point of the campaign, saying holding a New Zealand passport would not do Mr Vanunu any good as long as Israel continued to ban him from leaving that country.

A spokesman said last night that it would be an "empty gesture" and would not help him in defence of new charges which Israel has laid against him.

Moroccan-born Mr Vanunu, 50, was freed from prison in Israel last April after serving an 18-year term - including the first 11 1/2 in solitary confinement - for disclosing that country's atomic secrets to a British newspaper. But he faces further incarceration after being charged with 22 violations of restrictive terms of his release.

These include meeting foreigners and trying to leave the country in a bid to enter Bethlehem for Christmas in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. He is a convert to Christianity through the Anglican Church.

In November, armed police commandos stormed a Jerusalem church which offered him sanctuary against death threats and where he still lives.

He has been accused of disclosing more secrets from his work as a technician at a nuclear plant.

Immigration Minister Paul Swain said Mr Vanunu was entitled to apply for residency, but could expect no special treatment and would be subject to the same rules as any other applicant.