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PM Calls Debate on Peacekeeping

Prime Minister Jenny Shipley has called a special meeting of Cabinet on Thursday and has asked the Speaker to call Parliament on Friday to discuss the likely imminent sending of New Zealand peacekeeping forces to East Timor.

"It appears the United Nations Security Council will shortly be in a position to call for a multi-national peacekeeping force. New Zealanders want us to be ready as soon as possible to do our bit to end the terrible human tragedy that has unfolded in East Timor," Mrs Shipley said.

"But this will be a risky mission, and I will not put New Zealanders lives at risk without a full debate by the Parliament."

Mrs Shipley said the special meeting of Cabinet on Thursday afternoon would review the contingency plans for New Zealand's contribution to an international force and make decisions about what form of commitment New Zealand can make.

It would also consider any UN request and put in place the plans to respond as soon as possible.

A special four-hour sitting of Parliament at 2.00pm on Friday would give MPs from all parts of the political spectrum an opportunity to voice their views on New Zealand's role in bringing peace to East Timor.

Mrs Shipley said she had also asked Defence officials to give a briefing to any Opposition parties who required it.

"This is potentially the most dangerous regional conflict in a generation," Mrs Shipley said. "I want all New Zealanders to know that their views have been aired in Parliament.

"I also want the troops that do go to know that they have multi-party support. I'm confident that will be the case. New Zealanders have a proud tradition of standing up for what is right.

"It is time for New Zealanders to invoke that tradition again," Mrs Shipley said.


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