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Fitzsimons to PM: This is our Vietnam

Fitzsimons to PM: This is our Vietnam

Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said Prime Minister Helen Clark is fooling herself if she dismisses yesterday's nationwide protests as "relatively small".

Large protest rallies were held in New Zealand cities and rural townships, drawing tens of thousands of people to speak out against a US led invasion of Iraq.

Helen Clark was reported to downplay the protests as minor because they did not draw the same numbers as the Springbok and Vietnam War protests, two actions the Prime Minister readily boasts to have took part in.

"How many people must it take before the Prime Minister takes notice?" asked Ms Fitzsimons. "The fact is thousands of New Zealanders all over the country made the effort to make themselves heard against this invasion for oil and Helen Clark seems oblivious to this."

"It is clear: New Zealanders don't want a war, we don't want to support any action against a third world country, and we don't want our troops dying on the foreign policy whims of George Bush.

"Helen Clark would do well to remember how Keith Holyoake dismissed Vietnam War protests as irrelevant. Make no mistake about it: to the people of this generation, this is our Vietnam."

Ms Fitzsimons calls on the Prime Minister to show her commitment to the will of New Zealanders by demonstrating independence in New Zealand's foreign policy.

"Diplomatic options open to Helen Clark are clear and effective: She can call in the US ambassador to convey our abhorrence of American belligerence in the face of global opinion, while instructing our UN ambassador to speak loudly in that forum of our people's desire to avoid.

"Thirdly, Helen Clark should send a strong signal to the US by immediately withdrawing our Navy and Air Force from active cooperation in the war zone. She should strongly support French and German proposals to double the numbers of inspectors and send in UN peacekeeping troops to ensure they get the access they need.

"Any inaction or unwillingness to take heed of this huge groundswell of public opinion against the war in Iraq will confirm for New Zealanders that the Prime Minster is locked in an ivory tower with a window that looks out only to US foreign policy, and not to the people that put her there."

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