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PM visits NZ defence personnel in Iraq

PM visits NZ defence personnel in Iraq

Prime Minister Helen Clark visited New Zealand Defence Force engineers working on reconstruction and other tasks in Basra, Southern Iraq, on Saturday.

Saturday’s seven-hour visit by the Prime Minister and Chief of Defence Force Bruce Ferguson followed calls on the RNZAF P3 Orion squadron based in the Gulf as part of the Maritime Interdiction Force working against terrorism; the NZDF Provincial Reconstruction Team working in Bamian, Afghanistan, and New Zealanders working at the Bagram air base and at International Security Assistance Force in Kabul.

The 61-member New Zealand Engineers Group in Iraq is working alongside a United Kingdom Engineers’ Organisation in the ten-country Multi National Division (South-East), which has 12,400 personnel deployed in the Basra region.

Helen Clark she had appreciated the opportunity to see the work the New Zealanders were doing in the high-threat Basra environment.

“The projects they are involved in, such as the provision of drinking water, the refurbishment of schools and repairs to bridges, are making a real difference in a city that has suffered from years of conflict.

“It is not an easy assignment and the risks are high, as illustrated last week when Captain Hayden Gardiner was injured in an attack in which an improvised explosive device was used against MND personnel.

“As well as security issues, the hot conditions are also a challenge, though there will be some climatic relief in the next three of four months.

“The CDF and I were both very impressed , and it was clear from my talks with British military leadership in the region, and the governor of Basra province, that the New Zealanders’ work is much appreciated,” Helen Clark said.

Helen Clark returns to New Zealand early Monday and will chair the regular Cabinet meeting.

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