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NZ "Re-think" on Iraq supported by Doctors

NZ "Re-think" on Iraq foreign policy supported by Wellington doctors

New Zealand's new foreign policy stance on Iraq sanctions was today supported by the Iraq Sanctions Medical Alert Group (ISMAG), a group af Wellington-based doctors and lawyers.

AN ISMAG spokesman, Dr. Marten Hutt, said today that the recent statements by Phil Goff and Helen Clark have been widely reported internationally by Reuters and others as a significant policy shift. It is not generally realised how strong a supporter of sanctions NZ was under the National government in the last decade, including sending three frigates to the Gulf.

Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff has been reported as favouring a "re-think" on Iraq sanctions policy: "Sanctions as currently structured do not appear to be having the effect we would want them to have...[they] don't seem to have an effect on the elite that are living well in Iraq" (NZ Herald, 24/2/00). Prime Minister Helen Clark later noted that she favoured more targeted sanctions, and that she felt ISMAG had had justified concerns about the humanitarian effect of the sanctions (Evening Post. 29/2/00).

While the US and UK have been at the forefront of pro-sanctions activity, there have been many indications in recent weeks that those countries that have sent naval vessels to support the sanctions: New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, are wavering in their support for sanctions. ISMAG notes that New Zealand is taking a lead in a re-consideration of policy. Its voice is well-respected in the UN, said Dr. Hutt.

ISMAG is non-partisan, so it is pleasing to see, in recent communications, that both NZ First and the Greens are also seriously considering their policy on Iraq sanctions. ISMAG believes these parties eventual policy positions will be compatible with the Labour/Alliance [centre-left Government] position.

Dr. Hutt concluded by saying that he hoped that all NZ political parties would be able to meet with Denis Halliday, the UN Humanitarian co-ordinator who resigned in protest at the sanctions, when he visited NZ next month. Halliday and ISMAG would be urging further policy advice be developed around de-linking economic from military sanctions. Dr. Hutt commented that it is clear that the new NZ Government is prepared to do far more than merely "hold the line" against pressure to lift sanctions, and is instead prepared to fundamentally question the civilian impact of sanctions. This is a bold and important foreign policy shift by New Zealand which we fully endorse.

ISMAG contact: Dr. Marten Hutt wk ph: (04) 463 6527 / hm: 389 1706 Fax: (04) 463 6568 marten.hutt@vuw.ac.nz


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