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President Bush Downplays Tensions

President Bush Downplays Tensions

Thursday 16 Oct 2003 Ken Shirley Press Releases -- Foreign Affairs & Defence

In desperation, Labour is reading too much into US President George Bush's off-the-cuff comments before the APEC summit. A seasoned politician would never say anything inflammatory while on his way to an international forum, ACT New Zealand Deputy Leader Ken Shirley said today.

"President Bush was caught on the spot, button-holed on his way into the summit - of course he was going to make conciliatory and assuaging comments. What Labour should be heeding is US Ambassador Swindell's speech - a carefully constructed statement, with clear messages approved by Washington," Mr Shirley said.

"Prime Minister Helen Clark, however, will dismiss Ambassador Swindell's speech out of hand, and use President Bush's comments to try to convince the public that our ban on nuclear-powered ships is not damaging to our strategic and economic interests.

"What Labour doesn't seem to realise is that President Bush did not contradict Ambassador Swindell - who clearly stated that, while New Zealand and the US were friends, `friends and allies are not the same thing'. He also stated that, on the topic of our nuclear policy, `the United States is not going to just get over it'.

"President Bush's comments, no doubt, have Ms Clark giggling like a schoolgirl. I'm sure she can't wait to corner him during the Apec morning break. She will take his comments to mean that everything is all right, and ignore Mr Swindell's firm message from the US executive administration.

"Labour must stop viewing the world through rose-tinted glasses. Ms Clark should weigh up the evidence. We are our own worst enemy on US-NZ relations - Labour says the US will not even consider negotiating an FTA with New Zealand in the foreseeable future.

"Australia, however, is advancing rapidly and, when complete, CER will be nothing more than a minor irritant from an Australian perspective. New Zealanders should be greatly alarmed by the course we are on," Mr Shirley said.

ENDS


For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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