- Iraq to dominate issues in Clark trip to Europe -
Conflict in Iraq will dominate Prime Minister Helen Clark`s visit to Europe this month,
even if it was not the original purpose of the 12-day trip.
Miss Clark leaves on Easter Monday for a journey that will take in Belgium, England and France, and span the vast political chasm that has opened over Iraq.
Among those Miss Clark will meet are British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Queen Elizabeth, French President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt and European Commission President Romano Prodi.
Prime Minister of New Zealand,
Ms Helen Clark
Britain and France have fallen out badly over the war in Iraq that also split the Belgium-based European Union (EU) asunder. Britain was angry United Nations Security Council member France threatened to veto any resolution permitting force to be used against Iraq.
While Miss Clark timed her trip to coincide with high level Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) meetings in Paris, she said yesterday she expected Iraq to headline talks with Mr Blair.
"Obviously Tony Blair has been a critical player in the major international issue of the year, so it will be very interesting to see how he sees it going.
"Whether or not by then the UN will have been able to define the vital role for it in the post-conflict era that both Tony Blair and President George Bush have talked about still remains to be seen.
"There will be an opportunity to talk about some of that, I think there will be plenty to fill the meeting."
New Zealand opposed war against Iraq, pledging support for international efforts to help its people when the conflict ended.
In Paris Miss Clark will chair an OECD ministerial council meeting – the first New Zealand prime minister to do so in 20 years.
She will deliver a keynote address to the OECD forum, an international conference involving business, labour and civil society representatives.
"It is an important opportunity for New Zealand to chair the OECD`s highest level annual ministerial meeting at this time with WTO (World Trade Organisation) talks at a delicate point," she said.
Miss Clark also regarded the trip as timely, given the aftermath of the Iraq war and the EU being on the verge of its biggest expansion – from 15 to 25 members.
Her visit to Belgium, the first by a New Zealand prime minister in a decade, will combine the future of Europe, with its bloody past.
Miss Clark will visit the battlefields of Belgium and northern France, where thousands of New Zealand soldiers were killed in the 1914-1918 war.
She will attend ANZAC commemorations in London – at St Paul`s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey on ANZAC Day – then in Belgium, and northern France.
She will visit Le Quesnoy, the French town famously liberated by New Zealand troops in the final days of World War 1, and a nearby family war grave.
Miss Clark was to have met Mr Chirac and Mr Raffarin in bilaterals in September 2001.
Terrorist attacks on New York and Washington prompted her to cancel that trip.
"I will be pressing the case, both in Paris and in Brussels, for protecting the arrangements New Zealand has under bilateral visa agreements to enable New Zealanders to stay in Europe for a reasonable time," she said.
by Stuff News
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