Former New Zealand chief claims Quayle threatened him
CNN Hong Kong
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (CNN) -- Former New Zealand Prime Minister David Lange has claimed that ex-U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle threatened to have him "liquidated" over his country's anti-nuclear policy in the 1980s.
The extraordinary allegation was first made in an interview with New Zealand's One News broadcast Tuesday night. Quayle rejected the claim. In an e-mail from Quayle's Phoenix, Arizona, office, Quayle said Lange's allegation was "complete and utter nonsense -- it's so ridiculous it deserves no further comment."
The report also was described as "preposterous" by the U.S. Embassy in Wellington.
"We would hate to challenge the memory of a former prime minister, but the suggestion that former vice president Quayle threatened to kill him is preposterous," a spokeswoman told CNN.
In the One News interview Lange said the apparent death threat was made by Quayle during a meeting with the Australian cabinet.
"There were veiled threats and there were specific threats," he said. "It was announced at one stage to the Australian cabinet that I would have to be liquidated."
After being informed of the alleged threat -- it is unclear by whom -- Lange said he then asked New Zealand's Security Intelligence Service to investigate.
"I enquired of our security sources and was told I shouldn't regard it as a credible threat because the vice president wasn't regarded as credible."
As prime minister from 1984 to 1989 Lange brought in legislation banning U.S. nuclear powered and nuclear armed warships from New Zealand.
The move, which he says was galvanized by French nuclear testing in the South Pacific, sparked an angry reaction from Washington, which stripped New Zealand of its ally status, halting military cooperation and intelligence sharing.
Lange said at the time many people felt aggrieved at New Zealand's anti-nuclear stance and he faced extraordinary pressure to drop the policy, which remains in effect.
The revelation coincides with a visit to the U.S. by current Prime Minister Helen Clark.
On Tuesday she held talks with U.S. President George W Bush, for whose father Quayle was vice president.
She also met with Secretary of State Colin Powell and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz both of whom confirmed disagreements persist over the nuclear ban.
"Disagreements between close friends are not that unusual," Powell said, adding that nonetheless New Zealand remained a " very, very, very close friend" of the United States.
Clark's office has made no comment on Lange's allegations against former vice president Quayle.
'I didn't feel at risk'
In subsequent remarks made to the Evening Post newspaper Wednesday, Lange said he never felt intimidated by Quayle's alleged threat.
"He wasn't taken seriously by his own folk, that was the tragedy," the paper quotes him as saying.
"I didn't feel at risk from the U.S. Navy because they didn't come here anyway, and I certainly wouldn't be at risk from a chap who couldn't spell tomato," he added.
The comment was an apparent reference to a campaign blunder when Quayle made a schoolboy add the letter "e" to the end of the word "potato" during a school photo opportunity.
Quayle has largely retreated from U.S. political life after a failed bid for the Republican presidential nomination in the 2000 campaign.
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