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Last Updated: Friday, 11 July, 2003, 14:42 GMT 15:42 UK
NZ PM backs Blair's Iraq conduct
Helen Clark
Ms Clark has been staunchly opposed to the war in Iraq
The Prime Minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark, has backed her UK counterpart Tony Blair on his conduct in the run-up to the war in Iraq.

In a forum with BBC News Online's Talking Point, Ms Clark said she was sure that Mr Blair was "absolutely sincere" in acting on the intelligence he had available, although she noted that there were questions over the accuracy of that intelligence.

The New Zealand leader has been an outspoken critic of the Iraq conflict.

She reiterated on Friday that New Zealand stressed the importance of multilateral institutions such as the UN, and said that, "notwithstanding the frustration" over Iraq's treatment of its weapons inspectors, "I'm absolutely sure we were right to stick to process".

But she said she understood why the United States took the decision to take military action, following the terror attacks of 11 September 2001.

We came to a different evaluation about what the significance of Iraq was
Helen Clark

"Now that, I believe, made the Americans very threat conscious, very security conscious and I think Iraq kind of got whacked up into that.

"And psychologically I understand that sense of pressure and sense of threat. It's just that we came to a different evaluation about what the significance of Iraq was," Ms Clark added.

She denied that New Zealand's relationship with those nations who took part in the war in Iraq had been damaged as a result.

"I think generally New Zealand is respected for the positions it takes because it thinks them through," she said.

Prostitution

Ms Clark was also asked about New Zealand's recent move to legalise prostitution.

It's better to be absolutely honest that your society has prostitution
Helen Clark
The prime minister, who herself voted in favour of the bill, said she "personally find(s) prostitution quite abhorrent" but that she had to distinguish her personal views from what was best for society.

"It's better to be absolutely honest that your society has prostitution."

"I think (its) most adverse impacts... (arise) in a situation where prostitution is in the twilight" - which affords those who practise it no legal protection, she said.

Ms Clark said New Zealand was currently examining all its laws to determine how they matched up to international human rights standards.

She said civil union legislation was being considered to give gay and lesbian partners legal rights.

And on the issue of legalising cannabis, she said that if the issue was introduced as a private member's bill, she would vote for it to be referred to a select committee for further consultation.

She said that although she did not approve of cannabis use - noting that users are literally "dopey" - she acknowledged that telling young people not to do it "is almost an invitation to do it."

Republic

Ms Clark has also attracted controversy for her position on republicanism.

I think the Lord of the Rings has been magnificent for New Zealand
Helen Clark
She has said it is "inevitable" that New Zealand - of which the British monarch is now technically head of state - will eventually become a republic.

She told Talking Point: "In some time New Zealand will review its constitution - I don't think that time is imminent," adding that there was "no great passion for it" among the country's public.

The final question Ms Clark fielded was on The Lord of the Rings - the films of the Tolkien trilogy that were filmed in New Zealand.

"I think the Lord of the Rings has been magnificent for New Zealand... (it) has shown what we can do in the creative area" and has "contributed to our economic success", she said.


SEE ALSO:
Profile: Helen Clark
10 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific
NZ's Clark seals coalition
08 Aug 02  |  Asia-Pacific
Victory for New Zealand's Clark
27 Jul 02  |  Asia-Pacific
NZ premier denies royal snub
23 Feb 02  |  South Asia
Country profile: New Zealand
08 Jul 03  |  Country profiles
Timeline: New Zealand
27 Jun 03  |  Country profiles


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