PM’S Africa Visit
The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) advised journalists that the Prime Minister was spending part of today preparing for his forthcoming visit to Africa this week. The key part of the trip would be the meeting of the Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa between 6 and 8 October. This was the second meeting of the Commission and marked the half way point of its exercise to refine its work schedule to look at how to take forward the publication of its report which was due next spring. The purpose of the Commission was to help Africa help itself by bringing together African people to examine their different experiences. This was being done as part of the UK's combined Presidencies of the G8 and the EU next year. We hoped the issue would feed into and inform the G8 agenda which would look at the problems facing Africa - such as those relating to conflict, disease and, in some cases, weak governance. We wanted to examine how Africa could be helped through means such as debt relief, health programmes and also trade. That said, it was important for Africa to view the report as one that was being produced with it, rather than for it - hence the importance of the meeting in Addis Ababa this week. Asked to explain what was meant by 'weak governance', the PMOS said that he was referring to issues such as transparency, corruption and ensuring that financial transactions were above board. All affected the credibility of countries in terms of attracting inward investment. He pointed out that some countries had already made progress in tackling such issues.
Asked about the Prime Minister's health today, the PMOS said that he was working in Downing Street and feeling fresh and alert. Questioned as to whether the Prime Minister had had a medical check-up since leaving hospital, the PMOS said that he had no intention of providing a running commentary on the Prime Minister's medical appointments and care. Asked if it was a good idea for the Prime Minister to undertake a visit to Africa so soon after his hospital procedure, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister obviously acted on the advice provided by doctors who were clearly better placed than anyone else to judge such matters. Asked if a doctor would accompany the Prime Minister on the trip, the PMOS said not as far as he was aware.
Asked for an update on Northern Ireland following the talks at Leeds Castle, the PMOS said that we were continuing to move in the right direction. However, the Prime Minister remained of the view that we needed to make progress sooner rather than later, which was why the contacts between ourselves and the Irish Government, and between the two Governments and the parties were ongoing. There was no specific timeframe at this stage. However, as the Prime Minister had said at Leeds Castle, there was now a basis to resolve the issue and move on. That view had not changed.
Asked the Prime Minister's view of recent US military activity in Iraq, the PMOS pointed out that it was being done with the agreement and assistance of the Iraqi interim government. The aim, with which we agreed, was clear - to do what was necessary to allow elections to take place in January in as peaceful an environment as possible.
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