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 British forces would do if when engaged on a mission they were in a situation where they had to go against the wishes of the Iraqi Government the PMOS pointed out that this was a hypothetical question which people would be working very hard over the next few weeks and months to ensure that did not occur. The important thing was that there was consensus and coordination. Reality would no doubt be complex enough without having to invent hypotheticals. We would deal with reality in the same ways as we had dealt with reality in Bosnia and in the same way we had dealt with reality in Afghanistan and other areas where these issues had been faced. As he had mentioned in his morning briefing the important point was that the UN resolution had it in black and white that we were only there after 30 June with the consent of the Iraqi Government and that we would be working to coordinate the multinational force with the wishes of the Iraqi Government. There was a clear distinction in any military operation between setting the broad strategy and the operation of that strategy on the ground. The PMOS set out again that people should not have the idea that somehow or other the goal of the multinational force was different from that of the Iraqi government. The goal was the same: stability on the ground and as quick a transfer of responsibility to the Iraqi forces as they are capable of taking.
Asked if Jeremy Greenstock had been saying at lunchtime that the rules governing US and UK troops in relation to what was operational could be different, the PMOS thought that what he had been saying was that clearly there have to be arrangements made, but these technical arrangements would be made. The principle of consent was one that was reflected in the comments of President Bush and in the comments of Colin Powell and they were there in black and white in the resolution. Asked if the exchange of letters between the US and UK Governments with the Iraqi Government would cover these sorts of technical rules of engagement the PMOS said that the technical arrangements would be covered in those letters. However, you cannot set down in black and white every eventuality, you have to recognise that practical issues would arise which would be address at a local practical level. If difficulties arose there would be a mechanism at the national security level and an interface between it and the multinational force for resolving those issues. Every operation took into account a strategic framework and that strategic framework took into account the sort of sensitivities that are out there, but we would not deal in hypothetical scenarios because the reality was always more complicated and more multifaceted than those scenarios.
Briefing took place at 15:45 | Search for related news
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