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Clark apologises to Bush

WELLINGTON April 7. The New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark, said today she had apologised to the United States for saying that the war against Iraq would have been avoided if a different President was in the White House.

Ms Clark said she had apologised through diplomatic channels for any offence created by the comments, which she said were not intended to malign. ``I became aware that inference had been taken from that statement which was not intended.

And unless the matter was, in my judgement, put right by me, that wouldn't be a good thing to let linger,'' she told reporters. New Zealand's centre-left coalition Government opposes military action against Iraq.

It says the threshold for force has not been reached and action without United Nations backing sets a dangerous precedent.

New Zealand wants a free-trade pact with the U.S. but has ruled out support for the U.S. military action as a way of improving the chances of a deal. Ms Clark said last month the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq would not have gone ahead if the Democrat challenger, Al Gore, had beaten Mr. Bush in the 2000 presidential election. — Reuters

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