US President Bush and NZ Prime Minister Clark meet

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Today, President George Bush welcomed New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark to the White House to discuss common efforts in the War on Terror and review efforts to advance and strengthen bilateral relations.

The Prime Minister spent 30 minutes at the Oval Office with the President, who says the discussions were fruitful and included the importance of America and New Zealand cooperating to help democracy in places such as Afghanistan, commerce, the environment and the need for energy security.

"We talked about the South Pacific, and I praised the prime minister on her leadership in these difficult issues," President Bush said.

He told reporters he understood that countries in the region needed New Zealand's leadership, with US and Australian assistance.

The US would help "in any way we can," he said.

It was Clark's second formal meeting with the President since she became prime minister, although they have met nine times on other occasions.

The talks in the Oval Office marked the development of a closer relationship between New Zealand and the US, and it was only the third time a New Zealand prime minister has visited the White House in 24 years.

He said he had thanked Clark for New Zealand's commitment to the international force in Afghanistan.

Clark, who had lunch with President Bush in the White House after the meeting, said their talks had been constructive.

Every time I've talked to Helen Clark I've found a very straightforward, honest woman who cares deeply about the country she represents. ... We talked about the importance for the United States and New Zealand to work cooperatively in helping democracy in places like Afghanistan. We talked about North Korea and Iran, our mutual desire for these problems of nations wanting to have nuclear weapons to be solved in a peaceful way, by using the diplomatic process.

— President Bush

Clark praised U.S. involvement in Pacific affairs that has increased after a preoccupation with events in the Middle East. The Bush administration said last week it is working to boost its diplomatic presence in the Pacific islands after years of inadequate attention.

``The U.S. is focusing on the problems of the South Pacific, Clark said. ``We've had close coordination.

She said this cooperation included addressing the aftermath of a coup by military leaders who seized power in Fiji in December, as well as issues in the Solomon Islands and on Tonga, where a deadly riot destroyed most of the capital in November after the government appointed by the royal family was going to defer a plan to introduce democratic reforms.

President George W. Bush welcomes Prime Minister Helen Clark to the Oval Office

The Prime Minister also said that the talks covered a broad list of topics that New Zealand has been a willing partner in helping to address, including counter-terrorism, the work in Afghanistan, work around the North Korean problem and the Iran nuclear issue. However, there was no breakthrough on New Zealand's quest for a free trade deal with the US. Clark feels America is open to the proposal, but says adding any new country to the list at the moment is a fractious issue in Congress which is still trying to deal with the agreements already being negotiated. She also raised the question of trade with the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi yesterday and asked her to look at New Zealand's request sympathetically.


This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.