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Maori king refuses meeting with British prince

Tuesday - 3/4/2014, 6:28pm  ET

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) -- New Zealand's indigenous Maori king has refused to meet with Prince William and wife Kate when they visit the country next month, saying Tuesday that officials organizing the royal couple's schedule didn't allow enough time.

Officials had offered up to 90 minutes for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to visit King Tuheitia at his sacred meeting ground, the Turangawaewae Marae.

Elaborate Maori protocol dictates that important welcoming ceremonies can often last several hours.

In a statement, King Tuheitia said one Maori leader had noted that Maori royalty was "not some carnival act to be rolled out at the beck and call of anyone."

Tuheitia said he estimated there would have been just seven minutes for the royal couple to mingle and meet people on the marae after the ceremonial greetings were completed.

The decision was criticized by New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key, who said that 90 minutes seemed "generous" given the royal couple's busy schedule.

Royal officials in London did not directly comment on the cancellation, but said the program for the trip had been signed off by the New Zealand government and that several events would "recognize the significance of Maori culture."

The royal couple, accompanied by 7-month-old son Prince George, plans to spend three weeks in Australia and New Zealand. Their trip includes adventurous plans to go jet boating and sailing as well as the more traditional rounds of meetings, events and memorials.

The Maori king is a ceremonial position that doesn't wield any statutory powers.


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