Deputy Prime Minister
Asked what meetings the Deputy Prime Minister would be having today, the Prime Ministers' Spokesman (PMS) said that the Deputy Prime Minister would be working in Whitehall. He had chaired meetings with officials this morning looking at government business for the week and later today he would put out an update with DfID on the UK reaction to the Indonesian earthquake. The Deputy Prime Minister had been co-ordinating those efforts with DFID. As journalists knew he had also chaired a meeting on this over the weekend. Later in the week the Deputy Prime Minister would be going on a visit to look at a drugs rehabilitation project and on Friday he would chair a meeting of the British Irish Council on climate change.
Asked, following the latest violence, whether the troop levels were sufficient, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had passed his condolences to the family and friends of the personnel killed over the weekend in Iraq. As we had also acknowledged repeatedly last week the security situation remained difficult in some provinces, including around Baghdad and Basra. We would continue to work with the newly formed Iraqi government to tackle that violence. Asked if there was also a need for further commitment in Afghanistan, the PMS said the journalist should look at the Defence Secretary's media comments today.
The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) previewed the Prime Minister's speech. He said that this was the third of his series of three foreign policy speeches this year. His first speech spoke of the need to stand up to extremism and terrorism, not just through security methods but also by taking head on its ideas. The second speech argued that not only did we need to stand up for global values such as democracy and human rights but that they could only succeed if they were implemented fairly. Not just through security but also issues of justice and prosperity.
Asked if the Prime Minister would expand on the idea of having a UN Secretary General with enhanced powers and more freedom to take the initiative, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister sets out for example issues such as where if you wanted a separate budget line for an issue in the UN then you had to get the approval of the General Assembly. It was a very bureaucratic system and he spelled that out. He didn't do so in any particular depth, since the scope of this speech was very wide ranging and whilst the UN was a part of it, it was not the focus. If anything Iraq was the main part of the speech.
Asked what practical steps were being proposed to help unite Iraq, the PMOS said that whenever we were in Iraq it was clear that the new government strategy broke down into three parts. First was reconciliation within Iraq itself and that had been started by having Sunnis, Shia and Kurds in the Government itself, elected by the people. Second was restoring the economic infrastructure of the country. That obviously played into security as well, because you had to have security of energy supplies and so on. Third Iraq needed to get international help so that the Iraqi government could deliver for the people. People would work up ideas and something like an international donors conference was an issue on the agenda. He wasn't going to go into the detail but both the President and the Prime Minister were both aware of the need to try and help Iraq as much as possible. The basic point came down to the fact that we now had a democracy in Iraq. That was what was different now. We had a government which reflected that democracy. Therefore the Prime Minister's argument was that we should come behind that democracy and support it.
Asked about Iran, the PMOS said that the important thing about Iran at this stage was that Iran's obligation was spelled out very clearly. We needed to know whether Iran was or was not going to meet its obligations. The other important thing was that through the processes of the UN there was a consensus building about what we should do. That was where we should keep the focus. He was not going to provide a commentary on where we were on that process. That was best done in New York. Asked what the Prime Minister meant by the statement that change needed to take place in Iran, the PMOS said that in terms of where President Bush was, he had stated his position last night when he had said that he was fully engaged in the diplomatic process. There was no difference between us and the Americans on that front whatsoever. In terms of change, that would come through showing that democracy worked, that was why Iraq was important. If you could show that Sunnis, Kurds and Shia could work together for the national government and improve the lot of Iraqis, then the fashionable pessimist, who said that this was not possible would be proved wrong. Those who said that democracy, wasn't possible in the Middle East would be proved wrong. That would create its own momentum.
Asked about the significance of the Prime Minister's words on Hamas, the PMOS said that everyone knew what the solution was going to be. It was going to be a two state solution. At present Hams was refusing to recognise that and was refusing to renounce violence. The Prime Minister considered that to be unacceptable. However if Hamas did change that position then he believed there should be an accelerated process. He recognised the need to get momentum back into the process. If you looked at what President Abbas had been saying over night there were others who recognised the need to get the process moving and not simply have a stand off. Equally the Prime Minister was very clear that Israel could not be expected to negotiate with someone who didn't recognise its existence. That was a real problem.
Asked about the agenda of the G8, the PMOS said that the agenda of the G8 was a continuation of the agenda at Gleneagles in terms of issues such as energy, and that we welcomed. Obviously we were in discussions with Russians on Iran and it would not be particularly helpful to give a commentary on those discussions. Clearly Russia was an important player and we needed to discuss a number of important issues with them.
Asked about the Prime Minister's holiday plans, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister would be taking a short break next week. He added that although he didn't comment on travel plans he could confirm that every piece of speculation he had seen so far had been wrong.
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