FM: New Zealand, US to strengthen relationship

New Zealand and the United States, long estranged over the South Pacific nation's anti-nuclear policy, have agreed to work toward a "forward-looking" relationship, Foreign Minister Winston Peters said Thursday. "We committed ourselves to a forward-looking relationship as two countries and to strengthening that relationship in the future," he said after meeting in Washington with US Secretary State Condoleezza Rice. Relations were disrupted in 1985 when a Labour government banned nuclear arms and nuclear-powered ships from New Zealand's territory and waters. New Zealand was immediately excluded from a tripartite defense pact it shared with the US and Australia, an exclusion still in effect. New Zealand's military relationship with the US was reduced from "ally" to mere "good friend" in the fallout from the anti-nuclear policy. In recent months relations have warmed with Prime Minister Helen Clark this week claiming that Peters' meeting with Rice showed that in Washington the "welcome mat is being laid for the New Zealand foreign minister, and that's a good thing."