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| Latest Political News | Friday September 21 2012 16:03
The United States is lifting a ban on New Zealand navy vessels visiting US ports and will remove obstacles to defence talks and exercises.
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced what he's describing as a new era in relations after talks with Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman in Auckland today.
Mr Panetta also says he has a profound respect for New Zealandâ s contribution in Afghanistan - and know the progress made in the war-torn country has come at a high price for New Zealand.
After announcing he's lifting the ban, Mr Panetta took part in a wreath laying ceremony at Auckland War Memorial Museum.
He says one of his toughest jobs is to write letters to the families of fallen Americans, but finds heâ s able to offer them one piece of comfort.
"That their loved ones died a hero and patriot and they died fighting for a better life for their children. The same is true of the 10 Kiwis who have not returned home from Afghanistan."
Photo: Getty Images