Abu Hamza Arrest
Asked about the US Attorney General's comments that Abu Hamza would face the death penalty and whether this would be a factor in the extradition process the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that he didn't want to comment on the individual case for obvious legal reasons. However, he would like to point out the general nature of our extradition arrangements with the US. In such circumstances, while it may be correct that an offence in the US carried the death penalty the US were aware that because of our extradition arrangements with them that the Secretary of State could not order extradition in a case where an offence might be punishable by death, unless he received adequate written assurances that such a sentence could not be imposed, or if imposed would not be carried out. The PMOS said that it was his understanding that this did not mean that the extradition could not take place but it did mean a written assurance was needed in such cases. This was part of our extradition arrangements with the US, which he believed had been updated this year, though journalists should check that with the Home Office. Asked whether the written assurance was received before or after the proceedings had started the PMOS said his understanding was that it would come latter on in the process.
Asked if he could help characterise the announcement made today by Geoff Hoon and whether it should be seen in the context of improving security before the handover of sovereignty the PMOS stated for the purposes of clarity that today's announcement was the result of recommendations made from British commanders in the field in our particular area, about the needs in our particular area. That should be distinguished from the consultation in progress with our coalition partners about the overall strategic position as we move towards 30 June and Iraqi-isation of the position. Those strategic discussions were continuing and should not be confused with today's announcement. Today's announcement was the result of an assessment on the ground of our needs, particularly in the run up to 30 June where increased attempts by terrorists and others to inflict casualties on the coalition forces were expected. This was because they wanted to disrupt the handover to a sovereign Iraqi Government. There had always been this expectation and today's announcement should be seen in that light.
Asked if there was any reaction to French and Chinese comments seeking a firm deadline for withdrawal of troops in the resolution the PMOS said that it was best not to give a running commentary on negotiations at the UN. All he could say was that the feedback from the UN this morning had been that progress was being made and that the atmosphere was constructive. Asked if the Prime Minister had any plans to go to the UN the PMOS said that there were no plans in the diary for such a visit.
Asked if the Defence Secretary would be making a statement on troops the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman said that it was likely to be at 12.30pm but he did not want to pre-empt that statement. For guidance purposes it would be an operational statement rather than the result of strategic discussions with our coalition partners, which were continuing.
Abu Hamza Arrest
Asked if the Prime Minister had any reaction to the arrest of Abu Hamza the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman told journalists that it was entirely a matter for the legal authorities and therefore it would be totally wrong for him to make any comment.
Asked if the Prime Minister was taking any time off next week the PMOS said no, the Prime Minister was in Manchester today, he would be out again tomorrow and that he would continue to work next week.
Asked if the Prime Minister was concerned about the RIRA judgement today the PMOS said that it was a matter for the Northern Ireland Office, but that it was the Government's view that the law did meet this point. However, it was a matter for the relevant authorities to consider this judgement and what action to take as a result of it. It was only appropriate for those relevant authorities to make their decision before any announcement were made.
Asked about comments by the Professor of International Law at Oxford who had said there was still a difference in the US position as set out by Colin Powell and the Prime Minister's, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) pointed that he didn't think the professor had been part of the conversations held between the President and the Prime Minister.
Asked what the Prime Minister's reaction to the amnesty report that criticised the war on terror as being the worst attack on human rights since the second world war the PMOS said that the Government would no doubt want to study the report in full before making any response and he would not comment on phrases seemingly designed to make headlines. If it came to considering the worst atrocities against human rights one would have to take into account what Saddam did in terms of 400,000 mass graves in Iraq and you would also have to take into account what Al Qaeda did in one day in America.
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