11 Mar 2005

Fiji agent for Iraq workers rules out visit from minister Zinck

4:17 pm on 11 March 2005

The agent for one thousand Fiji men working in Iraq says he has refused to give a Fiji Cabinet Minister permission to visit the men in Iraq.

This comes as a Fiji-based UN official demands answers from the Fiji Government over concerns private security workers in Iraq and Kuwait may be working as mercenaries.

It seems set to add to criticism of the upcoming 25 thousand US-dollar trip to Iraq and Kuwait by the Fiji Labour Minister, Kenneth Zinck, as an unnecessary waste of money.

The UN Special Rapporteur for Mercenaries, Shaista Shameem, wants the exact nature of the work of two thousand Fiji nationals working on contract in Iraq and Kuwait clarified.

Labour Minister Kenneth Zinck says he believes they're not mercenaries, but adds the Government should know for sure and he'll look into it when he's there soon.

Mr Zinck says he'll meet representatives of the private firms, but the Fiji agent of Global Risk Strategies, Lt Col Sakiusa Raivoce, says Mr Zinck is not welcome.

"He wanted to go... and he saw me and I said, 'No you can't go and visit my guys. First of all, there are no civilians going to Iraq and there are no civilian flights going to Iraq, and the only guys who can go to Iraq are Rumsfeld and Bush who have a plane, they can just fly direct'. I told him he can't go and visit my guys, I would not want my guys to be held responsible should anything happen to him."

Lt Colonel Raivoce says his men in Iraq are definitely not mercenaries.