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International spy bosses in Wellington

Tuesday 4 Dec 2012 1:19 p.m.

Prime Minister John Key (Reuters)

Prime Minister John Key (Reuters)

Intelligence officials from several countries visited New Zealand last week but Prime Minister John Key isn't "bothered" to find out more about them.

At least one senior United States spy boss flew into Wellington on a private jet last week for a visit to an intelligence agency, as did representatives of "a number of other countries" for "a routine meeting", Mr Key revealed on Tuesday.

He let that detail slip a day after facing questions about the US official's name on Monday - and giving few answers.

Mr Key said he did not know exactly who they were, and on Tuesday, he told media: "I haven't bothered to have a look".

Asked why not, Mr Key said he doesn't track every official who comes to New Zealand.

"People come all the time. Some come on planes, some don't, they go through all the various things they do. I don't bother with it.

"I could go and find out if I had to, I'd have to consider whether it was in the national interest to do so."

Asked if he was curious about which high-ranking member of the Obama administration was visiting, Mr Key replied: "nah".

He said a lot of senior ranking officials had been in New Zealand over the course of the last three months, and "a number of them" were in the country last week.

Mr Key denies the visit was secret.

New Zealand is a member of Echelon, the intelligence communications alliance which includes the US, Britain, Australia and Canada.

However, asked whether it was an Echelon meeting, Mr Key said: "No, I wouldn't describe it in that way, no".

In July, Mr Key refused to comment on speculation a secret international conference of Western security agencies had been held in New Zealand, saying "there are meetings from time to time held in New Zealand but I can't confirm whether there was one earlier in the year".

That speculation followed the arrest of Canadian naval officer Jeffrey Paul Delisle, who has since admitted charges of selling classified intelligence gathered by the US, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia to Russian agents.

NZN

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