» Monday, September 20, 2004


Asked for an update on the hostage negotiations in Iraq, the PMOS said that obviously we remained very concerned about Ken Bigley and the other hostages. We were monitoring the situation very closely. As journalists were no doubt aware, the Foreign Office had used Arab media to broadcast an appeal for information. However, as the Prime Minister had made clear yesterday, given the sensitivity of the situation, we would not – and should not – say anything further at this point. Asked if there were plans for any further appeals, the PMOS said not at this stage.

Asked if the Prime Minister was happy for his comment yesterday about a “new Iraqi conflict” in Iraq to be interpreted by some as ‘Gulf War III’, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister’s words spoke for themselves. We were at the stage where there was a stark choice between those who were straining every muscle and effort – and risking their lives in the process – to enable the Iraqis to hold free elections in January, and those who wanted to stop democracy in its tracks. That had implications not only for Iraq, but for the entire region – and therefore for the world. That was why the Prime Minister believed it was important for people to understand the nature of the conflict and what was at stake, no matter what their views were about the war. Asked if he was implying that practical support should be given by our European partners, the PMOS said that he was referring to people assisting the process in whatever way they were able. Obviously that would vary from one country to another. However, the aim was clear. As Prime Minister Allawi had underlined yesterday, Iraq was not just about the violence that we saw on our television screens, serious though that was. It was also about the process of reconstruction, getting the economy up and running, finding people jobs and putting in place an electoral process by January. All these things were in the process of being done, but the important point was that everyone needed to support it in whatever way they could.

Asked if Downing Street agreed with the Iraqi Foreign Minister’s determination to go ahead with elections in January despite the fact that parts of Iraq would still not be enfranchised by that time, the PMOS said that the Iraqi Foreign Minister had been echoing the views of Prime Minister Allawi ten days ago when he had said that any small pockets of violence should not prevent the Iraqi population as a whole – all 25 million of them – from expressing their view. For example, elections had taken place recently in Umm Qasr in which there had been a turnout of 60%. Obviously we wanted elections to be held in as stable an environment as possible. However, it was important to recognise that the whole objective of the insurgents was to stop democracy in its tracks. Consequently, it was necessary to do what we could to ensure such a situation did not occur. Asked if he was suggesting that the Prime Minister believed it would still be a “worthwhile exercise” to hold elections in January, even though some Iraqis would be unable to vote, the PMOS said he did not think it would be helpful to get drawn in to a hypothetical assessment of what the situation might be in several months’ time. It was important to recognise that not only had the Iraqi interim government not in any way resiled from its commitment to democracy, but, rather, had reinforced its commitment to democracy, despite the difficulties. That was something which we supported 100%. Asked if the Prime Minister believed that we would be handing victory over to the terrorists if the elections failed to go ahead in January, the PMOS said that it was important for us to do everything to ensure that the elections did take place, rather than predict failure.

Asked if there was a news blackout in Iraq, as had been suggested by the Opposition’s Defence Spokesman this morning, because Ministers had not been put up for interview on the Today Programme, the PMOS said not as far as he was aware. He pointed out that the Prime Minister and Prime Minister Allawi had held a joint press conference yesterday at which those journalists who had attended had been entirely free to ask whatever questions they had wanted to ask.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news


  1. Dear Tony Blair,

    I’ve never been over-interested in party politics,
    but I did have hope and faith in you. I’m afraid that if nothing is done from your office over Ken Bigley,British politics will have proven once again to have little meaning.

    Please, Please do something despite American intransigence!

    Mary and John Cordwell. Liverpool

    Comment by Mary Cordwell — 22 Sep 2004 on 9:11 pm | Link
  2. Two words: Governments Lie.

    Comment by Julian — 22 Sep 2004 on 10:48 pm | Link
  3. i agree all together with mary and john cordwell over this issue.i have seen Mr ken Bigley plea for you to save his life.what fear that poor man must be going through.i cannot even begin to imagine.the torement his poor family must be going through and his elderly mother.over the past 25 yrs i have watched the uk go downhill and the world i fear is no longer a safe place to live in and i fear for my young children more than anything.what kind of a life stands before them.please Mr Blair help Mr Bigley secure a safe release.regaurdless of what the americans say alies or not

    Comment by Karen Barker — 23 Sep 2004 on 1:08 am | Link
  4. i’d just like to follow that up;

    mr blair;

    at least one of your own children is of service age; why is he not serving, or at least in training, to serve in iraq? and why do none of the others have any obligation to serve the country – one would imagine that he who sends others to war must also be willing to send his own, to prove his own honour if nothing else…

    Comment by PapaLazzzaru — 23 Sep 2004 on 3:20 am | Link
  5. Mr Blair

    You will go out of office in disgrace as you rightly should after your lies and deceit and I hope you remember for the rest of your life Ken Bigley’s plea for help. He represents the British soldiers and all the thousands of Iraqi civilians who have died or been maimed in your war. So much blood and misery at your hands Mr Blair. May it haunt you for the rest of your days.

    Margaret Casey

    Comment by Margaret Casey — 23 Sep 2004 on 8:11 am | Link
  6. My take on this?

    Either Ken Bigley will be killed within the next two weeks or he will be killed about one week before the next UK general election.


    I agree with everyone else that the blood of Ken and everyone else who has died in Iraq is on the hands of Tony Blair who has lied consistently and outrageously since long before the conflict began.

    Even now he is not man enough to say "I made a mistake" and take the consequences – which would fall short of the sentence to which he is committing Ken Bigley.

    Some leader eh?

    Comment by Roger Huffadine — 23 Sep 2004 on 8:51 am | Link
  7. I am reminded of Stalin’s comment, on tragedies and statistics.

    Comment by Lodjer — 23 Sep 2004 on 12:45 pm | Link
  8. Remind us, Lodjer; it’s been a few days since I read that one… ;o)

    Comment by PapaLazzzaru — 23 Sep 2004 on 12:53 pm | Link
  9. A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.

    Comment by Lodjer — 23 Sep 2004 on 1:03 pm | Link
  10. Al-Zarqawi is demanding that two germ warfare experts should be released in exchange for Mr Bigley’s life. At least one of these is already linked to Al-Zarqawi.

    How many more lives would be lost if those two monsters were released?

    It is useless to negotiate with psychopaths. There is no good route out of this situation, unless the kidnappers can be located and attacked.

    Comment by Don Cox — 23 Sep 2004 on 5:00 pm | Link
  11. As I understood the situation the ‘due process’ of law had run its course and one of the women was due to be released. The Allies or just the Americans [don’t know for sure] decided that if they permitted the release of the one woman it may appear as though a negotiation had led to the release. Fearful of the consequences they told the Iraqi government that the woman would now not be released.
    I have no doubt that Al-Zarqawi knew before the hostages were taken that the due process of law was complete and the women were likely to be released. I believe that the hostages were taken because of that knowledge and because – despite many people’s opinions – terrorists are often very clever people. Al-Zarqawi knew the effect that this particular incident would have on westerners and on the UK government and Tony Blair in particular.

    Comment by Roger Huffadine — 23 Sep 2004 on 6:55 pm | Link
  12. Doanld Rumsfeld has just said "so you have an election that’s not quite perfect. Is it better than not having an election? You bet."
    – ‘cos the US now intend that 3 areas of the 18 in Iraq be excluded from the vote.

    I beg to differ – if you exclude parts of Iraq from the vote then the result cannot be called Democracy – I thought politicians understood basic things like enfranchisement.

    If this was always the ‘cop out’ position of the coalition then why didn’t they hold elections in June or July?

    On a lighter note – maybe Mr Bush wants to redefine ‘democracy’ before November so that he can exclude the Florida vote.

    Comment by Roger Huffadine — 24 Sep 2004 on 10:20 am | Link
  13. "I beg to differ – if you exclude parts of Iraq from the vote then the result cannot be called Democracy – I thought politicians understood basic things like enfranchisement."

    The election of members for, say, 90% of constituencies can take place in January, and for the troubled areas at a later date. That means that some areas will not be represented, as was the case when Irish MPs refused to appear in the British Parliament.

    It is not ideal, but it is better than having a non-elected government. It would give the local people in those areas an added incentive to expel the insurgents.

    The main purpose of this first elected parliament is to agree a constitution rather than to do routine government.

    Comment by Don Cox — 24 Sep 2004 on 4:36 pm | Link
  14. But Don, if only 90% of the electorate choose a government and 10% don’t because of the trouble, who can be sure that the government which is elected will be to the taste of the 10% who didn’t get a chance to vote? "At a later date" is no good – it means the government has already been decided; tough if you happen to live in a dodgy area. Not only is this not ideal, it is not democracy at all.

    Personally though I think this situation suits the Americans down to the ground because it gives them pretty much carte blanche to do whatever they want; pick and choose the candidates, mess about with the results, whatever they need to do to get their man in place.

    Comment by PapaLazzzaru — 25 Sep 2004 on 11:16 am | Link
  15. "That was why the Prime Minister believed it was important for people to understand the nature of the conflict and what was at stake, no matter what their views were about the war"

    This really winds me up; those of us who were against the war KNEW those words were going to fall out of his mouth, and he hasn’t disappointed yet, has he?! Justification after the event, weasel words and lies. Exactly the same kind of tactics they use when they pull the old patriotism card – "if you don’t support our troops you’re unpatriotic blah blah". Don’t they just make you sick, these people – they lied in advance about the reasons for war, they lie on a day to day basis telling us that the situation is under control, they lie when they say they weren’t warned beforehand about the consequences, and after all that they try to pull this guilt trip by saying, look it’s a mess, but now we’ve ALL got to band together to clean it up. No thanks, Tony – I didn’t support the war, and there’s is no way I would ever even think about lifting a finger to help sort out the aftermath. Bliar and Brush don’t care about the ordinary Iraqi in the street; why should I? I care about why my taxes are being used to fund wars of aggression, while basic services in this country are in such a shambles.

    Anyway, anyone with any sense "understands the nature of the conflict and what is at stake". American oil interests, pure and simple.

    Comment by PapaLazzzaru — 25 Sep 2004 on 11:38 am | Link
  16. But Don
    when the Irish MPs refused to sit in Parliament they had been elected by a vote that was open to everyone – with the normal exclusion of prisoners etc.

    In this case the coalition are saying something like "we don’t like the Welsh so we won’t let them vote"

    There have been other places in the World where elections have taken place amid intimidation and the UN observers have said the vote was fair.

    I really do think that this is a setup by the coalition to exclude certain groups from the government.

    Comment by Roger Huffadine — 26 Sep 2004 on 11:28 am | Link

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