» Tuesday, May 18, 2004


Asked if it was Government policy that UK re-enforcements should remain confined to British-controlled areas in Iraq, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that the details of any announcement regarding deployments would be made at the appropriate time. No decision had been taken at this stage. As we had been underlining over the last few days, the principle which would govern such an announcement was how it would contribute to the strategy of the Iraqi-isation of the security structures which we had set out. Asked by the Daily Express if the Prime Minister believed that Donald Rumsfeld should resign if that would help calm the situation on the ground in Iraq, the PMOS said he was surprised that the Daily Express, which defended Britain’s national identity so strongly, was inviting him to interfere in the internal affairs of another Government. Surely the paper would disapprove of anything so outrageous. Put to him that the US was a Coalition partner, the PMOS said the fact still remained that it was an internal matter for another Administration. He doubted that the Daily Express would approve of American opinions being expressed about members of the British Government. Put to him that the Prime Minister consistently spoke up for President Bush, the PMOS said that the President was someone with whom the Prime Minister had done business in terms of Iraq and would continue to do so. It was for the President to decide who he wanted to include in his Administration.

Asked if the decision on troop deployments would have to be made before the transfer of sovereignty on 1 July, the PMOS said that various factors, such as timing, would need to be taken into consideration before any decision was made. That was why we were not rushing to make an announcement. Asked if he suggesting that the deployments decision would be linked to the political process in Iraq, the PMOS said he did not think it would be helpful to get drawn into a speculative discussion about timescales. We had made clear that any decision about troops would be made as part of the overall strategic context.

Asked if the US had put in a request for more British troops, the PMOS said that we were in discussion with our Coalition allies about this issue. Asked if he was indicating that the request was from our Coalition allies or military commanders on the ground, the PMOS said he did not recognise the distinction the journalist was trying to draw. He repeated that we were in discussion with our Coalition allies about this issue. Put to him that Geoff Hoon had said yesterday that it would be inappropriate to pre-empt any requests that came from commanders on the ground and whether this meant that any additional troops that were deployed would be answerable to British commanders, the PMOS said that obviously we had to make all the appropriate military preparations – including taking into account advice from military commanders on the ground. Any decision regarding troops deployments would also form part of the overall strategic context within which we worked. Asked if he would agree that the deployment of British troops to areas outside UK control would be the result of a political decision not a result of a request from commanders on the ground, the PMOS said he did not think it would be helpful to get drawn into a speculative discussion about a decision that had not yet even been taken. Asked if the Prime Minister had any plans to consult the House of Commons on the issue of troop deployments, the PMOS said that since no decision had been taken at this stage, such questions were clearly premature. Asked if the Prime Minister felt it important to announce the decision to Parliament rather than make a general announcement during recess, the PMOS said that we were fully aware of the usual procedures in these matters. However, this was a decision which would be taken in light of the strategic context, the needs on the ground and the proper military scoping of preparations.

Asked when the diplomatic discussions relating to a new UN Security Council Resolution and the transfer of sovereignty would come to a head, the PMOS said that the momentum was gathering pace all the time on these issues. He was not in the business of setting artificial deadlines. The discussions would be completed when those working with the UN in New York were ready. He reminded journalists that Lakhdar Brahimi’s report, due at the end of this month, would need to be taken into account. Asked the UK’s view of how the Interim Authority should be structured in the light of Mr Brahimi’s plan for it to be run by technocrats and the US’s opinion that senior political figures should be more involved, the PMOS said he did not recognise the characterisation of the question.

Asked if there was any Government estimate of how many Iraqi civilians had died in Fallujah, the PMS said that he had nothing further to add to what the Foreign Secretary had said this morning about casualties. Questioned as to whether the Prime Minister continued to support US military tactics there, the PMOS said that as the Prime Minister had told the House recently, Coalition forces had every right to respond if they were being attacked, as indeed they had been by rocket-propelled grenades in Fallujah. The PMOS took the opportunity to point out that it wasn’t an accident that the situation in Fallujah had become much more stable recently.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Search for related news

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