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New Zealanders with UNMOVIC leave Iraq

New Zealanders with UNMOVIC leave Iraq

New Zealand Defence Force personnel working in Iraq with the United Nations' weapons inspection team, UNMOVIC, have flown out to Cyprus overnight, Foreign Minister Phil Goff said today.

Mr Goff said 12 NZDF personnel had been among three flights of UN personnel evacuated from Baghdad. Another New Zealander with UNMOVIC was already out of the country.

"We are relieved that the UN has been able to get UNMOVIC personnel safely out of Iraq without difficulty," Mr Goff said.

"With the situation deteriorating rapidly, there was a risk that the Iraqis may have tried to prevent them leaving.

"UN staff in New York are traveling to Cyprus to begin arranging for the inspectors and support staff to return home, and it is likely the New Zealand contingent will be back here in about a week."

Mr Goff said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was now aware of only three New Zealanders who were still in Iraq. They were a single family of Iraqi-born New Zealanders living in Baghdad who had indicate they wished to remain.

"Three New Zealanders working for the UN's Oil for Food Programme have left; Graham Cherry, who was teaching Baghdad, is now in Jordan, and we are in the process of confirming that a New Zealander with a Norwegian NGO left as scheduled yesterday.

"We also understand that a New Zealand acting as a human shield has been deported in the past couple of days. It is possible that two more New Zealanders may be with the human shield group but we have been unable to ascertain whether they ever traveled to Iraq as intended," Mr Goff said.

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