Former Iraqi Agruiculture Minister May Have Visited NZ In 1984
By Alastair Thompson
Further research into the former Iraqi Cabinet Minister named in Parliament today by Winston Peters as having arrived in New Zealand a month ago on a UN passport has revealed that he may have visited New Zealand in 1984 as a guest of the Government.
Meanwhile Immigration Minister Paul Swain has now confirmed that the individual concerned is indeed in NZ, and indicates that his visa may also be cancelled. Mr Swain has however stated that the individual is in NZ on an Iraqi Passport not a United Nations one.
Former New Zealand ambassador to Iraq Barry Brooks (1983-1985 now retired), told Scoop this afternoon that he escorted the then Iraqi Minister of Agriculture to New Zealand in 1984 on an official visit.
Mr Brooks said he could not remember the particular Minister's name however and so could not say if it was the same man named by Mr Peters.
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade advised Scoop that it may take some time to search their files to discover whether it was the same man named in Parliament today as Amer Mahdi Saleh Khashaly.
"He was a perfectly pleasant chap," Mr Brooks said, "didn't have any English though."
Mr Brooks said that if it was the same man named by Mr Peters then he wasn't particularly highly ranked within the Iraqi cabinet. "Everybody was very much under the thumb of Saddam in those days," he said. "He wasn't the most dynamic of chaps."
Mr Brooks said that only members of the Revolutionary Council carried much weight in the Iraqi Government of the time and this Minister, if he was the same one named by Mr Peters, wasn't inside Saddam's inner circle.
Former NZ Ambassador to the United Nations Terrence O'Brien told Scoop that the fact the man allegedly arrived in New Zealand on a United Nations Passport was curious.
Usually these passports were only issued to active staff members. Once someone had completed work for a United Nations agency they would ordinarily be expected to give up their passport.
Late this afternoon Immigration Minister Paul Swain told media the man in question was travelling on an Iraqi Passport not a United Nations one.
Mr Swain told a press conference he was very angry about the failure of the Immigration Service to identify this second Iraqi official during its investigations into Mr Peters' original allegations.
Meanwhile both Mr O'Brien and Mr Brooks were concerned about the former Iraqi diplomat who had had his visitor's visa cancelled by the Government yesterday.
"I felt sorry for the guy," said Mr O'Brien. "It is not as if he tried to hide anything. He was quite honest about his background. I thought he should have been given more of a day in court before being dumped on."
Mr Brooks said it was common for diplomats to represent governments that they did not necessarily agree with. For example he had served as a diplomat under former Prime Minister Rob Muldoon and some people did not like Mr Muldoon. However that should not necessarily reflect on him.
Winston Peters told Scoop that he understood Mr Khashaly had worked for UNESCO [the United Nations Education and Culture Organisation] following his retirement. His understanding was that it was due to that employment that he and his wife had United Nations passports.
Scoop has asked UNESCO New Zealand if they have any record of Mr Khashaly visiting. As of the time of going to press no reply had been received.
Mr Peters said the whole case smacked of a security system that was not doing its job. He had been making representations to the Security Oversight Committee for months and yet nothing appeared to be being done.
As for what was likely to happen this time Mr Peters said: "They will fluff around and provide more worthless assurances. NZers need to decide how much of this they will take. And then there is how the rest of the West will see it."