NEW ZEALAND REMAINS OPPOSED TO FIJI PEACEKEEPERS

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SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, May 22) – The New Zealand Government will continue to lobby the United Nations to ban Fiji soldiers from taking part in peacekeeping operations around the world.

New Zealand’s Scoop Media reports that a spokesperson for Prime Minister Helen Clark said, "New Zealand remains opposed to the United Nations using Fijian peace keepers in its operations, and will continue to strongly press the point with the UN on this matter."

The response follows an earlier report that the UN Secretary General’s Office stated Fiji’s military contributions to the UN peacekeeping operations would be now considered on a case by case basis.

Spokesperson for the SG’s Office, Yves Sorokobi said," the United Nations is grateful for the service provided by Fijian personnel to UN peacekeeping operations over many years and for the Fijian personnel currently serving in dangerous assignments, including Iraq."

New Zealand and Australia have been objecting to the use of Fiji military personnel on UN peacekeeping operations following the military coup last December.

"New Zealand believes it is inappropriate for troops from Fiji to take part in UN operations at a time when the Fiji military has overthrown a democratically elected government. We are also aware of the financial value of peacekeeping duties for Fiji’s military," a spokesperson for NZ Foreign Minister, Winston Peters told Scoop.

"However, we also understand the difficult balancing act the United Nations faces."

"The United Nations did strongly condemn last year’s coup in Fiji and has continued to push for a return to democratic rule there.

"However, the United Nations also struggles to recruit professional and well-trained troops for peacekeeping duties in areas where those soldiers are potentially preventing civilian deaths from conflict. As a result they have been forced to accept deployments from nations whose domestic human rights records are questionable," the spokesperson said.

Fiji has more soldiers committed to UN peacekeeping operations than New Zealand and Australia.

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