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New Zealand: UK foreign secretary defends stance on Africa, Middle East conflicts


WELLINGTON, (Xinhua): Visiting United Kingdom Foreign Secretary William Hague on Tuesday defended his government's positions in conflicts in Syria and Mali during a written question and answer session with members of the New Zealand public.

Hague was asked during the session hosted by the Fairfax-owned Stuff news website why his government was "supporting al-Qaeda backed troops in Syria, while EU troops are fighting al-Qaeda backed troops in Mali?"

Hague replied that "in Mali what we are setting out to do is to support the legitimate government of Mali, who are faced with an insurgency, that is a danger to the people to Mali and surrounding countries."

"The government of Mali wants to arrive at political solution, but needs our help in an emergency," said Hague.

"By contrast the regime in Syria has refused all reasonable political solutions and we are supporting huge numbers of people who simply want freedom and dignity for their country and themselves. We do not support extremists in Syria or Mali."

In reply to another question about whether the British government was considering arming rebels in Syria, Hague said his government did not exclude any options in Syria, "since so many people are dying."

"Our efforts are directed at a peaceful political solution. We are sending some practical help to opposition groups, but not arms, and we have taken no decision to change that, but we do want the flexibility to change that if necessary," said Hague.

Asked if he supported a two-state solution in Palestine, Hague replied he strongly supported a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians.

Hague, the first UK Foreign Secretary to visit New Zealand twice while in office, also said Britain, like the United States, was stepping up its diplomatic focus on the Asia-Pacific region and he had visited six of the 10 ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries last year.

Hague, who arrived in New Zealand Tuesday and will leave Wednesday, also held talks with Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully in Auckland on areas of cooperation in major global issues, such as Iran and the Middle East.

Editor: Chen Zhi

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