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Clark zig-zags with decision on Iraq

Clark zig-zags with decision on Iraq

National Leader Bill English says today's announcement to send up to 60 engineering and support staff to help with reconstruction work in Iraq and up to 100 to Afghanistan is an attempt by Helen Clark to curry favour with Washington.

"While the decision to commit the New Zealand Defence Force engineering group has National's full support, it looks like a wild swing by a Prime Minister who obviously can't make up her mind when it comes to foreign policy."

Mr English said Helen Clark was "dancing on the head of a pin" by attempting to reconcile today's decision with her earlier policy that New Zealand forces would not be committed to Iraq till the United States handed over control to the United Nations.

"These defence personnel will be working under the authority of the United States and British occupying forces," he says.

"Helen Clark's embarrassing criticism of the United States - which she has tried to explain away as her 'principled' stand on New Zealand's sovereignty - has affected New Zealand's relations to such an extent that this backward flip has become essential.

"Helen Clark is obviously hoping today's quick-fix offer will restore goodwill.

"The problem is it's hard to credibly offer an olive branch when the tree has already been chopped down," says Mr English.

"There's no doubt that while credibility counts in international relations, so too does reliability which our Prime Minister seriously lacks. There is no strategic planning process, no careful judgement - just a clumsy display of back pedalling.

"Helen Clark's misjudged comments damaged our national interest and won't be forgotten. It will take a lot more than today's decision to restore our reputation as a reliable friend.

"And it'll take more than this to restore New Zealanders' confidence that Helen Clark is competent in pursuing the national interest," says Mr English.

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