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Former UN Security Council chief warns against cuts in New Zealand diplomacy


09:56, January 11, 2012

WELLINGTON, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) -- Planned cuts to New Zealand's diplomatic corps will jeopardize the country's bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council, a former senior New Zealand diplomat warned Wednesday.

The call is the latest in a series of warnings against the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) plan to cut a fifth of its current staff about 200 jobs and close some overseas posts soon after March.

Terrence O'Brien, a former president of the Security Council, told Radio New Zealand that reducing the country's diplomatic spread would lessen its ability to lobby other nations to support the government's plan to seek a place on the Security Council in 2015-2016 at elections in 2014.

"This is a relentless, unending series of approaches to other governments over a period of three years leading up to the election," O'Brien told Radio New Zealand.

"If we're reducing diplomatic spread in the world because of these changes, then we're putting at risk our ability to do that."

O'Brien also said the cuts would reduce the ministry's professionalism, while similar-sized countries, such as Norway and Singapore, were enlarging their international efforts.

On Monday, both the main opposition Labour Party and the opposition New Zealand First party described the cuts as a "slash and burn" exercise that would harm New Zealand trade prospects and its international reputation.

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