Diplomats hosted as NZ pursues UN seat

TRACY WATKINS
Last updated 05:00 21/05/2014

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The Government has been flying international diplomats to New Zealand to be wined and dined as part of a push to win the country a seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Prime Minister John Key let slip that the Government had been entertaining select UN ambassadors in support of New Zealand's bid after announcing yesterday he would be visiting the UN ahead of a trip to the United States next month for a meeting with President Barack Obama.

It will be Key's second formal White House meeting with Obama - though the pair met on the golf course in Hawaii over Christmas and enjoyed a five-hour round of golf together.

Key said the meeting was in line with New Zealand's approach to visiting the White House. "We're not high maintenance for the US. We're not trying to argue to be there every six months or 12 months like some countries do."

New Zealand launched its bid for a seat on the Security Council seven years ago and in recent years there has been a big step up in international diplomacy to court votes.

Key's office said it would be "counterproductive" to name which ambassadors were hosted in New Zealand but said it was important for the Government to talk to "a wide range of influential people, including UN ambassadors".

Key will spend several days in New York shoring up New Zealand's bid before arriving in Washington for his meeting with Obama. In what seems to have become a tradition, the meeting will take place on Friday Washington time, as the US bureaucracy winds down for the week.

The White House says trade and closer co-operation between the two countries will be the main topic of conversation. Subjects that appear to be off the agenda include drone strikes and the US' mass surveillance under the five-eyes intelligence-sharing arrangement, of which New Zealand is a part. Key said mass surveillance was a matter for the US, not New Zealand. "What [Obama] does in his own country is a matter for him".

He had no intention of raising US drone strikes either, despite the recent death of New Zealander Daryl Jones while travelling with al Qaeda targets in Yemen.

But Labour leader David Cunliffe said Key should be seeking clarification and assurances on both matters. He would if he were prime minister.

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- The Dominion Post

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