» Friday, May 19, 2006


Asked if Downing Street had a view or any optimism about the formation of the next Iraqi government, the PMOS said that he would not get into a running commentary about the formation process. Clearly, however, the formation of a national unity government in Iraq was a very important moment. This was because it would mean that the wishes of 12,191,000 voters in Iraq would have been put into place. It was a government, which would be representative of the country as a whole and of the ethnic groupings in the country as a whole. As Des Browne had said when he was in Basra the other day, you only had to think of the difficulty that we had witnessed in Northern Ireland getting a government representative of the community to see what an achievement this would be. It was even more of an achievement because it had been done against the background of a terrorist campaign, which had been specifically designed to stop such a government taking shape. If and when it happened it would be a significant achievement.

Asked if there would be negotiations with the new government on a timetable for troops to come home, the PMOS said that for the past two years our policy had been to train, equip and facilitate the formation of Iraqi security forces which could look after Iraq’s security for themselves. That process was up and running. It was well under way and progressively the aim was to hand over the role of security to the Iraqi’s. The multinational force was already working very closely with the Iraqi forces, as people had seen on Election Day in January when in many areas the Iraqi’s forces were responsible for security themselves. That process would continue.

It in turn had knock on implications for the forces we would need. The important point about all of this was that we were helping the Iraqi’s establish a democratic government in Iraq which would allow the Iraqi’s themselves to take decisions in government and allow the Iraqi’s to implement those decisions through their own security services. Put that the Prime Minister had said, following a phone call with the Iraqi Prime Minister-designate, that talks would start, the PMOS said that the whole strategy was now based on training Iraqi forces, which was happening, in order to hand over responsibility as those forces developed the ability to look after Iraq themselves. This was a process that could be tracked back over the last two years. It was a situation that was constantly kept under review, but people should not look at the formation of a government in Iraq through the sole prism of how many troops we had in the country. The main issue was that for the first time we would see a democratically fully representative government in Iraq. That would be a defining moment.

Asked for an update on the Prime Minister’s trip to Washington, the PMOS said that he never commented on the Prime Minister’s travel plans.

Briefing took place at 9:00 | Search for related news

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