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Anti-war students offer reward for Rice arrest

Singapore ASEAN
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is seen in Singapore before traveling to Australia and on to New Zealand on Friday.Wong Maye-e / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

New Zealand students protesting the Iraq war offered a reward to anyone who carries out a citizen's arrest of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her visit to the country Friday.

The Auckland University Students' Association is seeking Rice's arrest for her role in "overseeing the illegal invasion and continued occupation" of Iraq, Association President David Do said. The group is offering a $3,700 reward.

Rice is making her first trip to New Zealand after attending a Southeast Asian security forum in Singapore. She is scheduled to arrive from Australia late Friday and fly out early Sunday.

Rice, asked about the protest at a news conference Friday with the Australian foreign minister in Perth, Australia, said: "Protests are a part of the Democratic society and student protests are particularly a long honored tradition in democratic society. I can only say that the United States has done everything that it can to end this war on terror, to live up to our international and national laws and obligations."

She also reiterated the Bush administration's desire to close the detention center at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo, Cuba, where about 270 terrorism suspects still are being held — another flashpoint for international critics of the U.S. war on terror.

New Zealand officials have said they declined U.S. requests in 2005 and early 2006 to resettle some Guantanamo Bay detainees as refugees in New Zealand.

"Guantanamo is a detention center that ... we would very much like to close," Rice told reporters. "The problem of course is that there are dangerous people there who cannot be returned and put among innocent populations. We are hopeful that there will be the beginnings of the military tribunals for people who are there, but let's not forget that a lot of innocent people have died at the hands of terrorists. We must do everything that we can within our obligations legally and in terms of our treaty obligations to prevent that from ever happening again."

U.S. officials traveling with Rice said that they were aware of the citizens' arrest threat here but that it won't affect her plans.

But police in Auckland, New Zealand's biggest city, warned that "anyone who attempts to penetrate the police lines of security around the secretary will not be allowed to follow through with their plan."

District Commander Superintendent Brett England said "the consequences of such a security threat could be very serious indeed."

On Saturday, Rice will hold talks with Prime Minister Helen Clark and Foreign Minister Winston Peters, meet with business leaders and attend an official dinner.

Rice is due to fly to Samoa early Sunday for meetings with South Pacific foreign ministers, seen by observers as an important event for the South Pacific region — an area where the U.S. has pledged to strengthen its level of engagement.