NZealand PM congratulates Prince William on engagement

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New Zealand Prime Minister John Key on Wednesday congratulated Britain's Prince William and his girlfriend Kate Middleton on their engagement, describing the prince as "a fine young man".

"The prime minister is delighted at the news of Prince William and Kate Middleton's engagement and wishes them all the best for their upcoming wedding," a spokeswoman for Key said.

"The prime minister says Prince William is a fine young man who made a great impression when he visited New Zealand in January."

Queen Elizabeth II remains the official head of state of New Zealand, a former British colony, and the pro-royalist group Monarchy New Zealand said the engagement was exciting news for the country.

"They're part of New Zealand's royal family -- now Kate's going to be the newest part of that family," spokesman Simon O'Connor said.

O'Connor suggested that Prince William, the second in line to the throne, could bring his bride to the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand after the wedding, set to be held in next year's northern hemisphere spring or summer.

"We've got the Rugby World Cup next year and a royal wedding -- they're both significant events for New Zealand," he said.

"It would be a great idea if they came here for the Rugby World Cup. It would generate a lot of publicity for New Zealand."

Republic New Zealand spokesman Lewis Holden said the royal engagement would focus attention on the debate about whether the country should abolish the monarchy.

"It raises the question of why someone's engagement in the UK is of any constitutional relevance to New Zealand," he said.

"We wish them all the best with the engagement on a personal level, it's terrific for them, but it's irrelevant to most New Zealanders."

© 2010 AFP

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