» Thursday, October 21, 2004


The Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMOS) confirmed that Cabinet had discussed the request for troops, and said there was unanimous support for the troops and their commanders on the ground, a respect for their judgement and a determination that the Government should do all it could to help bring about free elections in January in Iraq, so finishing the task we had set ourselves.

The PMOS confirmed that The Secretary of State for Defence, Geoff Hoon would make at statement in the House setting out the Government’s intentions.

Asked about Kofi Annan’s comments earlier in the week about the need to win hearts and minds if Fallujah was entered, the PMOS said that the same question had been asked before, and that the same answer would apply, which was, just as with Najaf and Sadr City, and other places in Iraq, of course we wanted to achieve a political settlement where possible as part of the stabilisation process. We were equally aware, however, that unfortunately the reactions of terrorist and insurgents made military force in certain circumstances necessary. He added that we wanted the process of stabilisation in Iraq to continue so the Iraqi people can have a vote, because that was what it was all about in the end.

Asked what the timescale on redeployment was, the PMOS said that again, Geoff Hoon would deal with this matter in his statement, and that it was right and proper that the House heard first.

Asked if the PM would attend the statement, the PMOS replied that he thought the PM was travelling to his constituency in the afternoon.

Asked if the PM had been in contact with the US president or any of his advisers over the past few days about this matter, the PMOS answered that this had been raised many times already this week. The matter had not been raised by President Bush and had been dealt with by the military net. The position had not changed.

Asked if the British Government had sought assurance from the US Government that there had been no politics involved in this decision, the PMOS said that it had been confirmed in Cabinet today that the decision came from the military commanders on the ground.

Asked about how much detail Mr. Hoon would go into in his statement and what principles would be discussed, the PMOS replied that there would be a limit to how much he could talk about for obvious security reasons. The PMOS also cautioned that while much of the speculation about locations in the media had been wrong, he could not comment on what was wrong as that would compromise the security of the troops, which was of the utmost importance.

Asked if he could comment on a longer timescale and the extra deployment of troops, the PMOS replied that there were no plans for extra troops, though as General McColl had already said, there were all kinds of prudent contingency thinking as was entirely sensible.

Asked about the mood of the backbenchers regarding the deployment of troops, the PMOS answered that in general people seemed to be more reassured that the proposal had come from military commanders on the ground and was therefore a military proposal.

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

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