Call in while Down Under, Obama told
Prime Minister John Key wants United States President Barack Obama to carve off part of a day from his upcoming trip to Australia and spend it in New Zealand.
He had told Mr Obama that he could easily divert to New Zealand en route to Australia from Indonesia and spend three-quarters of a day in Auckland without losing any time.
"I said to him, 'It would be great if you could come to New Zealand."'
Mr Obama was forced to postpone a visit to Australia in March for a crucial vote on healthcare reforms.
Mr Key said yesterday that he thought it unlikely Mr Obama would take up his offer to visit New Zealand while Down Under – and there appears to be some concern that the president's schedule might push back a visit by Mr Key to the White House.
With the US facing crucial mid-term elections in November, a delay much beyond June might force a postponement till next year.
Last night Mr Key wrapped up the Washington leg of his North American visit, joining the leaders of 47 other countries represented at Mr Obama's two-day nuclear security summit in pledging to act in support of measures to prevent nuclear terrorism.
ANTI-NUCLEAR PROJECT FUNDING
New Zealand will contribute $685,000 to a Canadian-led project which aims to help prevent the illicit trafficking of nuclear and radiological materials.
The money will fund radiation detection equipment for a major Russian nuclear facility.
The project was part of the G8 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction.
The funding was announced during a trip to Canada by Prime Minister John Key on his way home from President Obama's two-day nuclear security summit.
In a joint press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Mr Key said the project was a practical way for New Zealand to reduce the risk of nuclear materials ending up in the wrong hands.
New Zealand has committed almost $6 million to G8 Global Partnership projects since 2004.
"New Zealand has a longstanding and valuable relationship with Canada and the two countries work together on a wide range of issues," Mr Key said.
He also said New Zealand would work closely with Canada on science in the Arctic and Antarctica with New Zealand scientists to participate in a project to measure ice thickness and the effects of climate change in those regions.
He announced the establishment of a Prime Minister's Fellowship for Canada which will see an influential Canadian brought to New Zealand each year to meet with experts and officials in their field.
On arriving in Canada Mr Key headed straight into a working lunch with business leaders before leaving to lay a wreath at Canada's National War and Tomb of the Unknown Warrior.
It is the first visit to the country by a New Zealand Prime Minister in 11 years. Jenny Shipley was the last to visit, in 1999.
Mr Key said the unprecedented gathering in Washington had underscored the threat to both international security and international economies that nuclear terrorism posed.
It had also highlighted the extent to which international opinion had shifted since New Zealand legislated against nuclear weapons and nuclear power in the mid-1980s. The move sparked retaliation by the US, which feared its other allies could catch New Zealand's "nuclear virus".
But in the 25 years since, other countries had followed New Zealand's lead, some by changing their constitutions or declaring themselves nuclear-weapons free, Mr Key said.
"A number of countries said they were deeply opposed. The Latin Americans said they were having a nuclear-free zone."
Others were Italy and South Africa.
Mr Obama, meanwhile, restated his vision for a nuclear-weapons free world in the leadup to the conference.
In its contribution to the conference, New Zealand had pledged to help Pacific countries build capability and expertise in protecting their sea lanes from smuggling activities.
- with NZPA