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Clark: Nothing marginal about East Timor

2000 web siteLabour Leader Helen Clark said today that it would serve neither the people of East Timor nor the interests of regional stability if the deteriorating situation in East Timor is pushed to the margins of discussion at the weekend's APEC meeting.

"Even as the situation in East Timor slides from anarchy to genocide, the National Government continues to insist that the issue be kept off the main APEC agenda.

"New Zealanders, who have watched the unfolding horror in East Timor on their television screens every night, do not accept that East Timor can be pushed to one side in this way. The stakes are simply too high for the National Party to go on repeating their tired old mantra that APEC is about economics and nothing else.

"Mrs Shipley has claimed that APEC has a 'moral dimension', but her government's marginalising of the East Timor issue at APEC looks distinctly immoral against the backdrop of the murder and mayhem on the island.

"With APEC's leaders about to arrive in New Zealand for the biggest such gathering we have ever hosted, our government has a grand opportunity to give the most pressing and serious issue in our region the prominence it deserves.

"The suggestion of the Australian Prime Minister, Mr Howard, that pressure could be brought to bear on Indonesia by withholding the billions of dollars of aid promised to it by the international community is now worthy of serious consideration.

"It's also time to say to the Indonesian president that if he is unable to bring peace to East Timor, then Indonesia should step aside and let the international community intervene. There is nothing marginal about East Timor," Helen Clark said.

Contact: Mark Watts (press secretary), 04 471 9477 or 025 822 734

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