Gov’t urged to end participation in US taskforce in Kuwait

Green Defence spokesperson Keith Locke is urging the government to end its involvement in the US-led taskforce in Kuwait, following the accidental death of a New Zealand Army officer yesterday.

“The tragic death of Major McNutt raises the question of why we have a liaison officer with the task force,” said Mr Locke.

Prime Minister Helen Clark said on Checkpoint yesterday evening that the Government would have been reviewing New Zealand’s participation in this type of operation in the normal course of events. Major McNutt was due to return home at the end of May.

“This tragic event means a review of our participation should be brought forward before another military officer is sent to Kuwait,” said Mr Locke.

“Contributing an officer to the Kuwait mission is inconsistent with Labour’s new stance towards Iraq. The government is no longer contributing frigates to US-led Gulf interception force, and has been critical of the present sanctions regime for producing hardship among ordinary Iraqis.”

“It is damaging to New Zealand to be part of this US-led task force when American and British planes continue to bomb Iraq, in defiance of world opinion. Last month, when planes struck targets near Bagdad only Israel and Australia came out in support.”

Mr Locke said that American planes presumably use the bombing range in Kuwait to prepare for operations against Iraq.

“Our reputation as a peacemaker is being compromised by being part of this taskforce. We should work through the United Nations to develop a more effective approach to Iraq.

“Bombing and sanctions have only strengthened the dictator Saddam Hussein, allowing him to use nationalist sentiments to prolong his rule.”