Leave Foreign Policy To Phil, Robson Told
“I’ve made it quite clear Phil Goff makes statements on Foreign policy,” Prime Minister Helen Clark said today, after Minister for Disarmament Matt Robson released a statement strongly criticising the air strikes against Iraqi military command, control and communication sites outside Bagdhad by the United States and Great Britain.
The Prime Minister said she wouldn’t expect the Alliance minister to make a statement without consulting Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff.
Mr Goff, who has also raised concerns about the strikes, said he wouldn’t have used the words that Mr Robson used.
He said Mr Robson was expressing a deep seated personal concern about the strikes, but said that as a cabinet minister, his comments will be interpreted as representing a Government position, so he needed to be more thoughtful about what he says.
Mr Goff said he was reserving his judgement on the air strikes until he had further information, and has asked the New Zealand Embassy in Washington and the High Commission in London to make inquiries.
But he said he was concerned that by acting bilaterally, the United States and Great Britain risked splintering support amongst the nations who went to war against Saddam Hussein in 1991.
He said that while he didn’t expect New Zealand to be first in line, some NATO members would have felt they should be involved in the decision making process.
Mr Goff said whatever short term military gain may have been made by the strikes, which took out Iraqi air defence infrastructure used to track American and British planes patrolling the Southern No-Fly Zone, would not justify the long term damage likely to have been done to the goals of promoting regional stability, and preventing Hussein developing weapons of mass destruction and oppressing his people.
He said the military targets would be rebuilt. Meanwhile, Saddam Hussein would use the attacks to consolidate his position at home, as he has done with sanctions.
He also said it was likely to split international opposition to Hussein’s “oppressive and brutal” regime, which he says demands international condemnation.
Mr Goff said he expected the United States
would be taking stock of the widespread concern expressed