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New Zealand offers military support against Iraq

Sunday February 15, 8:29 pm Eastern Time

WELLINGTON, Feb 16 (Reuters) - New Zealand would participate in any military action aimed at forcing Iraq to comply with United Nations demands that it abandon production of illegal weapons of mass destruction, Prime Minister Jenny Shipley said on Monday.

New Zealand would offer to contribute a unit of Special Air Services (SAS) soldiers and two Air Force Orion surveillance aircraft, Shipley said after a cabinet meeting.

``We will continue to push for a diplomatic resolution prior to force being used. New Zealand hopes that by supporting the coalition, a diplomatic solution may be more likely,'' Shipley said in a statement.

``None of us wish to see military action in use, with the loss of life this may entail,'' she added, saying Wellington was fully satisfied its decision was consistent with the country's support for the United Nations charter and collective security.

Shipley told reporters later that the SAS unit of up to 20 people and the planes would be available from Monday.

``The government has approved the deployment for up to one month initially from departure date,'' she added.

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