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Underlying tension during Howard visit

Underlying tension during Howard visit

Despite the warm picture the Government will try to paint of the Australian Prime Minister's visit, there'll be a frost in the air during meetings between Helen Clark and John Howard, according to National Party Leader Bill English.

"This visit will be more about what's not said than what is said," says Mr English.

"Labour's leading New Zealand further away from our nearest neighbour. Kiwis have been getting the raw end of the deal on welfare and the two countries are miles apart on Iraq," he says.

"On national television last Sunday, Helen Clark said countries that didn't stand with the UN stood for 'anarchy and chaos'.

"With a war in Iraq looking increasingly likely without any UN mandate, will Helen Clark be repeating that message to Mr Howard?

"That would seem unlikely - in fact Iraq may not even be discussed because the two leaders are so far apart on the issue," says Mr English.

"The boycott by Greens MPs is an embarrassment to the Government and to the country.

"Their only excuse can be that New Zealand's Prime Minister, who agrees with the Greens on Iraq, won't tell John Howard what she really thinks.

"Their threats and those of others, have forced Mr Howard to cancel parts of his visit, so instead of getting out to learn more about our country, he'll be holed up in his hotel room.

"It doesn't take a Rhodes Scholar to see that trans-Tasman relations are unlikely to improve as a result," Mr English says.

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