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Hot Heads In House On East Timor

Prior to today's Questions for Oral answer members of all major parties, and Foreign Affairs Minister Don McKinnon, made statements on the situation in East Timor and the upcoming APEC summit.

The responses to McKinnon's ministerial statement (which can be seen in the Parliament wire) quickly became hotly political.

Don McKinnon and ACT leader Richard Prebble stressed the importance of dialogue and the need to discuss things and to ensure Indonesia attended the summit in Auckland. Prebble asked to the opposition to cease its "jingoism".

Labour leader Helen Clark demanded that East Timor be placed on the official agenda for the APEC leaders summit.

Alliance leader Jim Anderton called on the New Zealand Government to call upon the withdrawal of all financial assistance to Indonesia.

For New Zealand First, Retired Major Ron Mark agreed that East Timor must be on the agenda at APEC but criticised the Alliance leader strongly for his intemperance.

Peter Dunne sought leave to speak, saying New Zealand had dual objectives, it had a responsibility to the people of East Timor, but also a responsibility to foster the democratic transition in Indonesia. Both were critical issues for New Zealand's security interests.

However like New Zealand First he also agreed that the Prime Minister should put East Timor on the official agenda.

Don McKinnon in reply said he thanked the expressions of support. He said he found the statements from the Alliance and Labour mysterious in that they involved calls for unilateral action when their previous position on international relations had been that a UN sanction was necessary before action could be taken.

"It should be on the record that this government is working actively with those who could assist in resolving this matter," he said. Mr McKinnon said New Zealand was in close consultation with the United States on the issue, who could provide clout to any proposed resolution of the crisis.

Stressing that Indonesia was very different than New Zealand, with 140 million people on 15,000 islands speaking 100 languages. "These are very difficult times for the leaders of Indonesia," he said.


ENDS

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