The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) briefed journalists on the latest news from both the Hercules crash and also the Iraqi elections. Regarding the crash, he told them that there was no further news at the moment, but the MOD were hopefully going update on the situation later in the day. He said there were difficulties surrounding the crash, as it was not in our area of control, and also the need to let families know.
Asked whether it was certain if the plane had been shot down, as was rumoured earlier, the PMOS said there was still no news on the situation. He also advised people not to rush to assumptions until there was firm confirmation.
The PMOS told journalists that the Prime Minister had spoken last night to Kofi Annan, and would speak later today to President Bush. As Carlos Valenzuela had said this morning, the turnout out for the election was very encouraging, especially in the North and South, but there was also a better than expected turnout in the centre of Iraq. In terms of moving forward from this point, what the Government would like to do was work with our international partners to help the new Iraqi Government in a number of areas. These areas would be:
Asked if the "Iraqisation" could be seen as a sign towards reaching a timescale of withdrawal of troops from the country, the PMOS said we had set out a priority in April, which was to build a capacity of Iraqi security forces of both quality and quantity, stretching that across all the requirements of any security force in Iraq. Last week, Prime Minister Allawi had set out six steps that moved towards a situation where the multinational forces would not be required any longer. Those steps included the building up a capacity of Iraqi forces, getting to a situation where they were taking a lead in towns and cities, and reaching a stage where the multinational forces were adopting a back up role. Yesterday was a real test of the capacity of the Iraqi forces, and everyone who had spoken on the subject had recognised that they had passed the test. The PMOS added that there were incidents, and those were to be deeply deplored, but in real terms, the Iraqi forces made a real difference yesterday.
Asked if that therefore meant that we could start to think about pulling out of Iraq, the PMOS said that as Prime Minister Allawi had said, in terms of precise timetables, it became counter productive, but in terms of the process that we envisaged last April, it did mean we could work through it. The multinational force was in place to help the new Iraqi Government stabilise and enforce its will. That process would evolve, had evolved and would continue to do so.
Asked if there would be any further indication about a timescale being published, the PMOS replied that in terms of timelines, it was the steps that were necessary, and indeed the ones set out by Prime Minister Allawi. What we were not doing was setting out precise timetables, as that would invite the insurgents to aim at specific dates.
Asked what else the Prime Minister and Kofi Annan had discussed apart from Iraq, and was there an event coming up that showed a need for the international community to support the new Iraqi government, the PMOS said that in terms of the UN, we recognised the very brave and courageous role the UN had played regarding the electoral process. In terms of the recurring theme, it was going to be necessary for the international community to push forward in order to help the new Iraqi Government. The Government would be chosen freely by the Iraqi people for the first time in fifty years. What was therefore important was that the international community came in behind to ensure that it was possible for the new Government to keep moving forward. The UN was obviously a vital part of that process.
Asked what that meant in practical terms, the PMOS said that various countries had expressed their willingness to help the new Iraqi government in a variety of ways. What we needed to do was to make sure was that it was coordinated properly, and everyone worked together to support the new government.
Asked what the implications of "burden sharing" would be, the PMOS said that help would take different forms from different countries. What was important was that we coordinated our efforts so as to maximise the impact on the ground.
Asked how "jobs on the ground" would be translated, the PMOS said that in terms of an overview, there was 60 per cent unemployment in Saddam’s time, so therefore there was situation where the country’ infrastructure needed to be built up, thus leading to something that helped create jobs. Ordinary Iraqi people had expressed their determination, and courage by voting, so we needed to ensure that they were rewarded for that by making as big a change as possible at ground level.
Asked why the role of the multinational forces out in Iraqi was seemingly being downplayed, the PMOS said he was not trying to downplay the role in any way. Rather, it was important to also recognise that a large part of the security yesterday was by Iraqi forces, and that they were especially showing bravery given the very real threats against them on the ground. We should not only recognise the role of the multinational forces, but also realise that the Iraqi forces were in a much better position to help stabilise Iraqi than they were in April.
Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news
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