Iraq War news

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Anti-Iraq war protest to greet Blair in Auckland - 28 Mar 2006

Anti-Iraq war protest to greet Blair in Auckland - 28 Mar 2006 - National News: "British Prime Minister Tony Blair will get a reminder of his problems back home when he arrives in New Zealand this afternoon with anti-Iraq war protesters promising to give him a hot reception. "

Officials have been trying to keep details of the 24-hour visit as restricted as possible, but protests have been planned for Auckland Town Hall tonight.

Tony Blair, pictured in Canberra yesterday, arrives in NZ this afternoon. David Hancock / Getty Images

Visit organisers have been reluctant to even publicly confirm which city Mr Blair will be in, citing security concerns.

During his stay, Mr Blair will visit a school, take part in a Wellington conference on climate change by video link and make a trip to an Auckland winery.

Leaders of the protest claimed it had the backing of Global Peace and Justice Auckland, the Green Party, Unite Union, Workers Party, Workers Charter, Radical Youth, and Auckland Animal Action.

They said in a statement issued before Mr Blair's arrival: "Tony Blair, with his claim that Iraq could launch an attack on Britain using chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes, was a pre-eminent deceiver in the lead-up to the war."

Mr Blair said in Australia yesterday that the fight against terrorism was a "struggle about values and modernity" and that he planed to "tough it out" on Iraq.

Prime Minister Helen Clark hopes the stop-over will bring about closer ties between the two countries and assurances that Britain will not make it harder for young New Zealanders to take working holidays in the UK.

"We are looking at a way of formalising policy sharing arrangements between the two countries, " Helen Clark said.

There had been common policy areas in the past which both governments had an interest in such as encouraging savings, benefit reform and health productivity.

Helen Clark has regularly met with Mr Blair in the past and was pleased he had finally taken up her invitation to visit New Zealand.

"I am really pleased he is coming. I think it is important for the relationship and it is also important for us to be able to reciprocate the hospitality that our ministers across all governments for many, many years have been shown by the British Government."

Helen Clark said given the close ties between the two countries it was a "little surprising" that Mr Blair was only the third British prime minister to visit New Zealand while in office.

John Major visited to attend the Commonwealth Head of Government meeting in 1995. Prior to that Harold McMillan was the first Prime Minister to visit New Zealand in 1958.

It will be third time that the pair have met this year and both might be keen to swap notes on the management of political crises.

Helen Clark lost another minister last week to what she regards as smear campaign tactics, but is still maintaining her personal grip on power.

Mr Blair yesterday caused a furore in Britain after saying on a television interview in Australia it may have been a mistake to rule out a fourth term.

He won his third term in 2005, with a sharply reduced majority, partly due to rising opposition to Britain's role in the war in Iraq.

However his supporters expect him to stay on for several years to push through his public service reform agenda and then hand over power to his Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown shortly before the next election.

Mr Blair is expected to leave New Zealand on Wednesday evening, heading to Indonesia before returning to Britain.


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