New Zealand Monitors Events In Iraq

  • Max Bradford

Defence Minister Max Bradford said today the very serious events in Iraq were being monitored closely.

Mr Bradford said New Zealand's 14 UNSCOM personnel had departed Iraq safely, and ten were now in Bahrain, while two who were on inspection duties at the time, are now in Jordan before also flying to Bahrain later today.

New Zealand also has six Royal New Zealand Navy personnel currently on a United States ship which is expected to reach the Gulf tomorrow.

"The Navy team is New Zealand's contribution to the Multinational Interception Force, a United Nations-backed operation which monitors the sanctions cordon around Iraq, and have been assigned to participate in boarding parties to check Gulf shipping for smuggling and other sanctions evasion by Iraq," Mr Bradford said.

"Should the ship be diverted and deployed to other duties, we expect our team would be transferred to another ship or landed ashore. If this was not possible, our Navy personnel would have to remain on board but they would not take part in tasks the ship had been deployed for."

Mr Bradford said about 90 New Zealand Defence Force personnel (about 20 SAS members and the remainder Air Force personnel) remained on 14 days standby to rejoin the Multinational Coalition in the Gulf. The group has been on standby since returning from deployment to the Gulf earlier this year.

"We have not received a request at this time for New Zealand to deploy personnel to the Gulf."