INDEPENDENT NEWS

Humanitarian aid to Iraq

Published: Fri 28 Mar 2003 11:24 AM
Humanitarian aid to Iraq
Rt Hon Helen Clark
Parliament Buildings
WELLINGTON
Dear Prime Minister
Re: Humanitarian aid to Iraq
This letter is to urge you to urgently reconsider your policy of refusing to assist in humanitarian aid to Iraq unless it is under United Nations control.
As you are no doubt aware from the inconclusive meeting today of the Security Council, it may be a very long time, if ever, that the United Nations has a role in Iraq. No doubt you are also aware that Secretary-General Kofi Annan has today expressed grave concern about the humanitarian situation in Iraq.
There is a way that New Zealand could materially assist in humanitarian relief for Iraq immediately.
The fastest way to get relief to Iraq is by ship to the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr. Civilian ships will not go to that port until it has been completely cleared of mines. I am advised that the New Zealand military has world-class mine clearing capacity. At the Devonport naval base right now there are experts in mine detection and monitoring, including New Zealand navy divers who are internationally recognised for their expertise.
If New Zealand was to offer assistance in clearing mines from the sea lane approaching the port of Umm Qasr we would not only be helping in a practical way but would also score a considerable diplomatic coup. It would be an action that would be favourably received not just in the Arab nation but also in the United States and by the rest of the world.
You have told parliament that you have already put aside money for humanitarian relief for Iraq. You now have a choice: New Zealand can play United Nations politics and refuse to assist, or we can recognise that the help is needed now, not later.
I am sure that if you were to authorise this assistance today parliament and the nation would support your actions.
Yours sincerely
Hon Richard Prebble, CBE LEADER, ACT NEW ZEALAND PARTY

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