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Mr Key told Radio New Zealand this morning it was "highly unlikely" that President Barack Obama would request New Zealand assistance to respond to the conflict in Iraq.
Mr Key is spending the week in the United States and will meet Mr Obama.
He said military intervention in Iraq was a last resort for the West.
"Everybody from the United States downwards believes that's the least preferred option."
He said he would listen to requests for a multilateral response, in the form of NATO intervention or something similar, but said "that's not a place New Zealand wants to be".
Militants from the jihadist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have seized large areas of Iraq in the last week, in a dramatic escalation of violence.