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PM’s Presser – Shootout in Kabul, Phil’s Folly II

PM’s Presser – Shootout in Kabul and Phil’s Folly Redux


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    New Zealand servicemen are now officially fighting in Afghanistan, Prime Minister John Key confirmed Monday.

Fifteen members of the Special Air Service (SAS) were embroiled in a firefight with gunmen in Kabul last Friday, Key said at a post-cabinet press conference.

The servicemen had provided reinforcements for the Afghan police force as part of its routine operations but the four men blew themselves up in before they could be arrested.

No SAS officers were injured but Key said he did not have a figure for civilian casualties.

Key said he believed the SAS’ involvement in crisis response was part of their eighteen-month mandate in Afghanistan but did not expect to extend their involvement beyond 2011.

Key was also quizzed on his comments last week about former Housing and Fisheries Minister Phil Heatley, who resigned Thursday after new revelations about illegitimate ministerial expense claims.

Key had said he felt Heatley might have been too harsh on himself for what was “untidy and careless” bookkeeping

But the Dominion Post reported Friday Heatley had been repeatedly warned about his credit card use since July last year.

Responding Monday, Key said he still did not think Heatley was dishonest.

“I think he has certainly appeared at least sometimes to push the boundary but I don’t think he’s a dishonest person.”

In some cases the legitimacy of an MP’s expenses was a “truly philosophical question”.

“I think the media need to think a little about what is legitimate spending within the rules -- even if they don’t like the rules – vis-à-vis someone breaking the law.”

Key said he did not think his comments were prejudicing the auditor-general’s report as he was only offering a personal view of Heatley, he said.

“I’d like to think all MPs are actually upfront, trustworthy people.

I’ve never seen in my time in Parliament any evidence of corruption or wrongdoing from people,” he said.

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