Asked if there was anything else on the agenda other than G8 and the environment that might be discussed between President Bush and the Prime Minister during their meeting, for example, issues on Iran or the UN, the PMOS said that clearly, we were at an important time with regards the Middle East, and both sides, therefore, would want to update each other on Middle East issues. With regards to Iran, the E3 and the US were working very closely with each other, and we would want to compare notes on that, as we would with North Korea and Afghanistan, as it was a chance to update information. The PMOS said that it was likely that the subject of the UN would be brought up as well.
Asked whether Mrs Blair would be joining the Prime Minister on any official engagements or be in the White House whilst she was in Washington, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman said that it was a matter for the White House to talk about any invitations that they issue. The PMOS reminded journalists that Mrs Blair's visit was a private one which had coincided with the Prime Minister's and that was still the case.
G8/President Bush Visit
The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) outlined the thinking ahead of the Prime Minister's visit to Washington DC. The visit was part of the preparations for Gleneagles, but it was not Gleneagles itself. As such we were not expecting to see a final US position tomorrow, that would come at Gleneagles. In this same way we would be meeting other leaders who would be coming to the G8. We recognised that there were large areas where we were in agreement with the US. We both agreed that Africa was a priority. President Bush had said so himself when he had met President Mbeki recently. We also both agreed that the starting point was what did Africa need. We agreed with the US that that assessment had to be about more than throwing money at the problem. It had to be based on a rigorous process of assessing not just Africa's need, but also whether proposed aid actually delivered improvement on the ground. That was the approach of the Commission for Africa. Hence it identified the need for improved government as well as increased aid, debt relief and trade access. All of that we and the US were agreed upon. We recognised what the President had already done in trebling aid to Africa from the US from one to four billion dollars. Tomorrow the Prime Minister would want to talk about increased aid, debt relief and trade but it would be against the context of what we agreed upon. It would be building both on what the President had already done in setting up the Millennium Challenge Account, what he said at Monteray and what the US had done to increase aid to Africa. Similarly on Climate Change what we believed was important was that we tried to reach agreement on what we did to address the issue, both in terms of harnessing the new technology and science and in bringing on board the emerging nations who were not part of the Kyoto process. In other words agreeing an action plan for the future. That was where the focus was rather than on continuing the disputes of the past. The time to see the product of the discussions would be at Gleneagles and not tomorrow. We believed we were making real progress and continued to believe that we would do so.
Asked if te UK would postpone the referendum on the EU Constitution, the PMOS said that he would not say anything to pre-empt the Foreign Secretary's statement to the House of Commons this afternoon. The Prime Minister had said that if there were a constitution to vote on then there would be a referendum in this country. The position at the moment following the French and Dutch votes was an issue to be discussed at the European Council. Given that, it did not make sense to proceed at this point, but that did not mean that we were withdrawing the possibility of the British people voting if there was a constitution to vote on. Asked if Downing Street had signed off on the Foreign Secretary's statement, the PMOS said that the Foreign Secretary's statement was prepared in the usual way. The Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister were in full agreement as to the way forward. Asked if the Prime Minister wanted to see a way forward that rescued the Constitution, the PMOS that the Prime Minister's view remained as he had stated immediately after the French vote. He believed that the Constitution was a perfectly sensible attempt to try to resolve the issues posed by enlargement. The fact of the matter however was that we had had the French and Dutch vote no and we have to recognise that and have a period of reflection. Equally however, what the Prime Minister believed was that Europe as a whole needed to think about the issues behind those votes. Part of that was how the European economy reformed in such a way to address many of the concerns that he believed were behind the votes, in other words how Europe responded to globalisation. In response to the suggestion that the French were concerned about the Prime Minister's reforming agenda, PMOS said that the issue was how Europe responded to globalisation. Globalisation was not going to go away and the challenge posed by globalisation was not going to go away. Therefore what we needed was a proper, sensible and rational debate about how Europe would meet the challenge of globalisation.
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