Page last updated at 09:18 GMT, Thursday, 5 February 2009

Protesters attack New Zealand PM


A protester grabs New Zealand Prime Minister John Key at Waitangi

Two protesters have attacked the New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, as he arrived at a Maori memorial at Waitangi for celebrations marking National Day.

One of the pair, whom Mr Key described as "glory seekers", managed to grab the prime minister before both were arrested and taken away by police.

Mr Key, who is already recovering from a broken arm, said he was "quite shocked" by the incident.

But he said the attack would not hinder government dialogue with the Maori.

National Day celebrations have often been marred by Maori activists who argue that the New Zealand government has failed to honour the treaty - signed at Waitangi - founding the former British colony in 1840.

Protesters say the agreement giving the indigenous people equal rights and ownership of tribal lands has not been upheld.

Maori activists

"It all happened very fast and I was quite shocked by it actually.

"The next thing you know the diplomatic protection people around me were hauling this guy off and another guy came at me," Mr Key told Radio New Zealand.

The Maori Affairs Minister, Pita Sharples, was knocked over as police tussled with the protesters, he said.

The two men aged 19 and 33 were later charged with assault.

Mr Key's predecessor, Helen Clark, refused to attend the annual celebrations there after she was jostled in 2004.

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