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Britain’s Prince Harry begins weeklong visit to New Zealand

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Britain’s Prince Harry arrived in New Zealand Saturday for a weeklong visit that will take him to one of the country’s most remote islands.

Harry was greeted by Prime Minister John Key and other dignitaries when his plane landed in Wellington on a sunny and calm fall day. Wearing a blue suit, Harry stopped to say hello to cheering fans as he began his first visit to the South Pacific commonwealth nation of 4.5 million.

From the airport he traveled to Government House for an official welcome. He pressed noses with an indigenous Maori man in a traditional greeting called a “hongi” and met with military representatives. He also talked with schoolchildren, feigning surprise when some told him they didn’t play rugby.

“I thought you would be forced to play rugby,” he said. “That’s why you have such a good rugby team isn’t it?”

Harry is scheduled to watch a rugby game later Saturday between Wellington’s Hurricanes and South Africa’s Durban-based Sharks. The prince also talked about soccer, telling the children that most royal family members were Arsenal fans.

One young girl gave Harry a card for his niece, Princess Charlotte, which the prince popped in his suit pocket and promised to pass along. Charlotte was born last week, bumping Harry down a notch to fifth in line to the throne.

Harry plans to visit through May 16. One of his scheduled stops is at Stewart Island, population 378.

From there he will take a boat to the even more remote Ulva Island, a predator-free sanctuary for native birdlife that is home to rare species including the Stewart Island brown kiwi.

Harry is also scheduled to visit Christchurch, Whanganui, Linton and Auckland.

The prince arrived from Australia after a monthlong embedment there with the Australian army.

He is the grandson of Britain’s monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.

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