16 Oct 2014

PM says NZ part of 'broader' coalition

4:01 pm on 16 October 2014

Prime Minister John Key now acknowledges New Zealand is in a broader coalition of countries opposed to Islamic State (IS) militants.

New Zealand's Chief of Defence Forces attended a meeting in Washington yesterday which the United States said was aimed at co-ordinating the strategies of the 22 countries present in the fight against IS.

Mr Key still insists it was a regular meeting, however, and said neither he, nor the Defence Force, knew the meeting would be addressed by President Barack Obama.

Yesterday he denied New Zealand was part of any coalition, despite it being named as such by the US State Department.

But today Mr Key took a slightly different line.

"Technically there's been 60 countries which have been identified in a sort of broader coalition of opposition to ISIS, and we're part of that 60, because of that humanitarian aid we've given in the past." he said.

Mr Key said New Zealand is still considering what contributions it may make, on top of the million dollars already committed for people displaced by the fighting in Iraq.

A New Zealand defence expert said, meanwhile, there is a good chance this country will offer some type of military assistance in the fight against Islamic State.

An Islamic State militant, who is believed to have a North American accent.

Is NZ moving towards a military contribution to the fight against IS? Photo: REUTERS / FBI

Robert Ayson, from Victoria University's Centre for Strategic Studies, said there are a number of possibilities for the Defence Force to become involved in.

But Mr Ayson said he does not think New Zealand will become involved in any direct combat.

"I think there is a good chance that there will be a military contribution but that doesn't mean that New Zealand will be involved in a direct combat side in terms of actually taking on IS, because that's not really where we will end up positioning ourselves."

Labour's foreign affairs spokesperson David Shearer said there was no place for a New Zealand military contribution in the fight against IS militants.

He said he was worried that New Zealand's inclusion in a meeting of senior defence figures from 22 countries on the IS problem was a sign that the Government was sliding towards providing military help.

He said many countries in the region were not committing troops and it was not right for New Zealand lives to be risked.

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