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Bush's Worst Nightmare - Lunch With Helen

Bush's Worst Nightmare - Lunch With Helen

It must be US President George W Bush's worst nightmare - denying Prime Minister Helen Clark a scheduled meeting, only to have her buttonhole him at the APEC summit, ACT New Zealand Deputy Leader Ken Shirley said today.

"Labour attempts to put a brave face on the deterioration of US-New Zealand relations, but the fact that Ms Clark cannot arrange a formal meeting with President Bush - and must nab him during the morning break - is a clear indication that all is not well," Mr Shirley said.

"By dubbing Ms Clark's `meeting' with President Bush as a `pull-aside', Labour has created an image of a little girl tugging at her elders' coat sleeves, begging for a morsel of attention. Is this the image that New Zealand wants to project to the international community?

"If the President had truly wanted to meet with the Prime Minister, then New Zealand would have been included in his Asia-Australia travel itinerary or - at the very least - a meeting would have been scheduled during the Apec summit.

"Ms Clark pretends to have assurances from President Bush that US-NZ relations are fine, but he barely seems to notice her. The reality is that her ill-spoken comments and stubbornness have damaged our relationship with the US and obliterated our chances of a place at the Australia/US free trade table.

"The cracks in Ms Clark's façade are becoming more and more visible. I am calling on her and her Government to change tack, and ease the tensions in the US-NZ relationship - before those relations are damaged beyond repair," Mr Shirley said.

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