29 Apr 2015

Key reveals troops' Dubai stopover

5:43 pm on 29 April 2015

Opposition parties have criticised Prime Minister John Key for revealing New Zealand troops are in Dubai on their way to Iraq.

John Key takes in Dubai from the 148th floor of the Burj Khalifa.

John Key takes in Dubai from the 148th floor of the Burj Khalifa. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Having repeatedly refused to tell New Zealand news media when the troops might go to the Middle East, Mr Key, who is visiting the Gulf states, told news media there they were already in Dubai.

Mr Key had cited security reasons for giving nothing away about the deployment but was relaxed about telling the Gulf News.

He explained why to reporters travelling with him why.

"They directly asked the question...I just don't think it's new news that that they have a transit stop. I mean they, it's like saying I go to London and I stop off in LA," Mr Key said.

New Zealand First MP Ron Mark

New Zealand First MP Ron Mark Photo: RNZ / Demelza Leslie

New Zealand First defence spokesperson Ron Mark asked in Parliament today how the Government could reconcile not providing any details about the deployment with Mr Key's comments in Dubai.

"As already been publicly stated, we expect all of the New Zealand contingent involved in the building partner capacity mission to Iraq to be deployed in Taji and Baghdad by mid-May," Deputy Leader of the House Simon Bridges said.

"It shouldn't come as a surprise that personnel have been going to the region in advance of deploying into Iraq.

"The Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence (Gerry Brownlee) made it very clear on April 15 that the deployment would be staged with groups entering Iraq at different times."

Labour Party foreign affairs spokesperson David Shearer said Mr Key had shown a frightening lack of judgement in disclosing to Gulf News that troops were in the United Arab Emirates awaiting their Iraq deployment.

"At the same time the prime minister is telling us that disclosing operational details could be a security risk he is being loose-lipped on the world stage," Mr Shearer said in a statement.

But in Dubai Mr Key had made it clear he could not understand what the fuss was about.

"I just don't see it as newsworthy. You guys might but I don't. I mean, they have to fly through somewhere. That's the base they use going into Baghdad," he said.

Under further questioning, Mr Bridges stuck to his line that there was nothing unusual in what Mr Key had said.

"That statement that troops are in Dubai shouldn't come as a surprise. We've always been clear that this was a deployment that was staged but we don't go into details on specific travel arrangements, certainly into a theatre of operation Iraq," Mr Bridges said.

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