Put to the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) that he had seemed to suggest people should not hype the hundredth British casualty in Iraq, the PMOS responded categorically that he had not said that. He had said 4 four times throughout his morning briefing that the Prime Minister was first and foremost deeply saddened by the death and that one death was one death too many. The specific question he had been asked was about the tactical implications of this particular attack. He had responded to that question by refusing to get involved in speculating about terrorist tactics because he believed, as experience had proven, that speculation about terrorist tactics only feeds terrorism. It did not do us any good and it was only those on the ground that had the knowledge to actually answer such questions. This was why he had talked about the need not to hype. He repeated, for clarity, that he had said four times during the morning briefing that the Prime Minister was deeply saddened by the death and that one death was one death too many.
Asked for the Prime Minister's reaction to the 100th British casualty in Iraq, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that first and foremost the Prime Minister was deeply saddened by this death, as he had been by all the deaths of those members of the armed forces who had been killed in Iraq.
Religious Hatred Bill
Asked if the Prime Minster would be voting on the Bill and why he thought it was so important to push through the legislation on threatening or abusive behaviour, the PMOS said he was not sure whether the Prime Minster's schedule would allow him to vote. The reason it was important was because people had identified a gap in the law where it was illegal to say things that incited hatred against Sikhs and Jews but it was not illegal against other religions. As people like Saddiq Khan had exemplified there were cases where groups had knowingly exploited that loophole. Paul Goggins had made clear today that we did not intend for this to be used against those who criticised or made fun of religions. There was, however, a genuine problem with people exploiting the loophole to incite hatred against certain groups such as Muslims.
Asked if the Prime Minister was satisfied that the joint statement referring Iran to the UN Security Council had been worded strongly enough, the PMOS said that we should be clear what our goal here was. Our goal was to send as clear and united a signal as possible to Tehran, that the international community believed as a whole that Iran had broken its international obligations and that it should stop its activities. Therefore the aim was to move at the pace and in a method which brought the international community as whole to a position where it was putting pressure on Iran to deliver that result.
Asked what the Prime Minister would be discussing with Kofi Annan, the PMOS said they would discuss a wide range of issues. Obviously they would discuss Iran and the Middle East Peace Process among other things.
Asked if Stephen Byers was the sort of chap that the Prime Minister would like to see back in his Cabinet, the PMOS said that was a reshuffle question so he did not have to answer it. Asked whether the Prime Minister liked Stephen Byers, the PMOS said that the Prime Minster had spoken about Stephen Byers in the past and journalists were capable of looking that up for themselves. Asked if the Prime Minister had any view on the report by the Parliamentary Standard's Committee, the PMOS said the Prime Minister had spoken in the past about the importance of people giving truthful answers, but in terms of the report it was a matter for parliament so he would not comment on it specifically.
Asked what the Prime Minister would be discussing with Kofi Anan, the PMOS said they would discuss a wide range of issues. Obviously they would discuss Iran and the Middle East Peace Process among other things.
Sir Ian Blair
Asked what the Prime Minister thought about reports that 114 senior police officers had lost confidence in Sir Ian Blair and what he thought about an early day motion calling for the Home Secretary to sack Sir Ian Blair, the PMOS suggested that it must only have been the shortage of space that had stopped the reporter from saying these were anonymous reports suggesting that. The Prime Minister had no wish in any way to intervene in any speculation surrounding the Independent Police Complaints Commission report (IPCC). The PMOS emphasised that most strongly. However the Prime Minister recognised that the job of Met Commissioner was not only a very important one but also a highly difficult one and the Prime Minister supported Sir Ian Blair in carrying out that job.
Asked if the Prime Minister was delaying a reshuffle because he wanted to keep junior Ministers in line over education reforms, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) replied that it was much obvious a question for him to answer. He did not answer reshuffle questions.
Asked what were the objectives for the talks involving Dr. Rice and others about Iran, the PMOS said that the primary reason people were in London was for the conference on Afghanistan. There would be 60 delegations at the conference, so it was a major conference, and a chance for the international community, Afghanistan and the UN to look ahead and take a strategic overview of where Afghanistan was going. They also needed to review progress since 2001 and to then plan what happened next in terms of developing Afghanistan economically, developing its infrastructure, and also politically, with part of that being what we had announced in terms of security and reconstruction last week.
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