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New Zealand apologises to Finland over remark

New Zealand,Politics, Tue, 27 Mar 2012 IANS

Wellington, March 27 (IANS) The Finnish government has accepted an apology from New Zealand Prime Minister John Key over derogatory comments made about Finland by a senior New Zealand cabinet member.


Prime Minister Key has presented his regrets to the Finnish president, whom he met Monday in Seoul at the nuclear conference, and said he was sorry for the comments, reported Xinhua citing reports.


Gerry Brownlee, who made the remarks in the New Zealand parliament, also apologised Tuesday for any offense he might have caused, saying the remarks were meant to be humorous, Radio New Zealand reported.


On Wednesday, Brownlee made derogatory remarks about crime levels in Finland, its economy and the status of women, in an attack on the main opposition Labor Party.


Accusing the Labor leadership of idolising the Scandinavian country, Brownlee listed Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) "facts" showing the fields in which Finland lagged behind New Zealand.


The attack came after Labor leader David Shearer, in a speech March 15, suggested New Zealand "bite the bullet" as Finland had done under one-term Prime Minister Esko Aho, who came to power in 1991.


Shearer had said that Aho and his administration, facing major economic problems, succeeded in transforming the Finnish economy "through innovation and talent".



Brownlee, ranked third in New Zealand's Cabinet, responded Wednesday, saying: "You'd actually get someone to go out there and make the speech saying, 'I want New Zealand to be like Finland, which has worse unemployment than us, has less growth than us, can hardly feed the people who live there, has a terrible homicide rate, hardly educates their people and has no respect for women'."



The comments had been reported heavily in the Finnish media and a page on the social


networking site Facebook has been set up calling for him to travel to Finland to learn some facts.


On Tuesday, Radio New Zealand reported, Brownlee said the remarks were made in good humour.


"I apologise... but it was meant to be humorous," said Brownlee.


The Finnish embassy in Australia, which is also accredited to New Zealand, Monday sought an explanation from New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade over the matter.


However, Juha Parikka, the deputy head of mission, told Radio New Zealand Tuesday that the matter was now at an end.


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