Fiji unlikely to back Clark for UN role - PM

Helen Clark (Reuters)
Helen Clark (Reuters)

Prime Minister John Key says Helen Clark's lucky Fiji probably won't have the deciding vote for the next United Nations Secretary-General.

Mr Key discussed Ms Clark's bid for the UN's top job when he visited Fiji last week.

"I just made the point that she was running. I made the point I thought she was the best candidate and I hope she got there," Mr Key told Paul Henry on Monday morning.

Mr Bainimarama listened, but didn't promise anything, says Mr Key -- but he doesn't think it'll matter what Fiji does.

"If she had to rely solely on that she would be in a bit of trouble in her campaign, but the truth is that's not where it's at."

Ms Clark was Prime Minister of New Zealand when Frank Bainimarama, then head of Fiji's military, staged a coup. Over the next few years relations between the countries soured, with Ms Clark once saying Mr Bainimarama would be "treated like a leper" by other Pacific leaders.

Mr Key's visit to the island nation last week was the first by a New Zealand Prime Minister in a decade, and the first since Fiji held its election in 2014, which saw Mr Bainimarama keep his grip on power.

While openly praising New Zealand's efforts to help Fiji recover from Cyclone Winston, Mr Bainimarama took a shot at the New Zealand media.

Mr Key brushed it off, saying he knew there was "a 20 percent chance he would say this sort of stuff", and that it was aimed at a domestic audience. But he thinks Ms Clark and the New Zealand Government of the time made the right call to condemn the coup.

"He obviously holds very strong views -- I mean, that's why you undertake a military coup… I was never going to resile from the actions New Zealand took, because I believe them to be the right ones," says Mr Key.

"Yes of course I could have stayed away, but this isn't about specifically me and Frank Bainimarama. This is about New Zealand's relations with Fiji, and the people of Fiji are massively appreciative."

Fiji's leaders have in the past talked about turning to China and Russia instead of Australia and New Zealand, but Mr Key says when Fiji needed it most, it was its old friends that came to help.

"There were just thousands of Fijians on the sides of the streets waving and cheering. There were billboards up everywhere. What that was about was a genuine affection and appreciation for the work New Zealand's done in relation to Cyclone Winston."