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Labour Accuse McCully Of Being A Bully

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Murray McCully
Murray McCully

Wellington, April 22 NZPA - Labour has accused Foreign Minister Murray McCully of trying to muzzle Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres.

Mr de Bres angered Foreign Minister Murray McCully with his criticism of the Government's non-attendance at the United Nations anti-racism conference.

Mr de Bres did go to the Geneva conference and publicly criticised the Government for pulling out, saying it was trying to keep onside with the United States.

Mr McCully told The New Zealand Herald elected governments should make decisions on foreign policy, not a self-appointed "foreign policy guru".

"The suggestion that we have been over-influenced by any of the other countries who have decided to withdraw is completely wrong.

"We will have a look at that matter. New Zealand is a fairly small country. It would be helpful if we could speak with one voice on the world stage."

Mr de Bres told TV3 he believed the Government had pulled out as an "act of solidarity" with the US.

Labour's associate foreign affairs spokesman Grant Robertson said Mr McCully's comments were a "petty" personal attack and an attempt to bully Mr de Bres into silence.

"The position of the Race Relations Commissioner is an independent one and any attempt to curtail the freedom of speech of the Commissioner or the Human Rights Commission is totally inappropriate," Mr Robertson said.

Mr de Bres was appointed to the position by the previous Labour government. His second five-year term ends in 2012.

The Labour Party believed New Zealand should have attended the racism conference to ensure its opposition to racism was expressed at the highest level.

"In multilateral discussions there will be things said that we find unpalatable."

Prime Minister John Key said earlier this week New Zealand would not attend the conference because the declaration would restrict freedom of expression and because the conference was likely to create a platform for attacks on Israel.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad prompted a rare walk-out at the UN on Monday when he called Israel a "cruel and repressive racist regime" at the conference.

But on Tuesday delegates -- including those who had walked out, except for the Czech Republic which stayed away -- approved the anti-racism declaration.

The text "reaffirms" a contentious 2001 document that refers six times to Israel and the Middle East. It was adopted by consensus and without debate at a public session, well before the end of the week-long meeting.

The text covers issues such as xenophobia, immigration, migration, slavery, genocide, discrimination against gypsies and against people suffering from Aids.

"I hope that those who decided to stay away from this conference will join the international community again soon in the fight against these scourges," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told a news conference.

NZPA PAR Reuters kc nb

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