New Zealnad's Prime Minister Helen Clark on Monday ruled out a visit by Israeli President Moshe Katsav to her country next month, saying diplomatic relations were still strained following a passport fraud case involving suspected Mossad agents. Ties between the two states deteriorated last year following the conviction and imprisonment of two men New Zealand alleges are Israeli agents who tried illegally to obtain a New Zealand passport.
According to The AP, Clark said last year that she had "no doubt whatsoever" the two were spies. New Zealand has demanded but not yet received a public apology from Israel.
Asked whether Israeli President Moshe Katsav, scheduled to visit Australia in early March, would also visit New Zealand, Clark said, "not under current conditions, no." "We never expected this sort of action from a government with which we had friendly relations and we have made clear what needs to be done to restore those relations," Clark told reporters Monday.
Clark said relations "are ... very restricted in terms of diplomatic contact" and would remain so "until some further progress is made."