Asked for a read out of the Prime Minister's meeting with the Sudanese Vice President, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said journalists would not be surprised by the messages the Prime Minister had conveyed. They were, first and foremost, that everybody needed to stop fighting. Second, that they resume political dialogue with those people who had not signed up to the Darfur Agreement. Third, the Sudanese Government had to agree to the deployment of a UN force in Darfur. Hilary Benn had put the same messages to President Omar al-Bashir in Khartoum on the Prime Minister's behalf recently. President Barroso, the European Commissioner, had also visited the Sudan with the same message.
Cash for Honours
Asked if the Prime Minister had had his collar felt today as the question was not asked this morning the PMOS said no he had not, but said the journalist should not worry as Cathy Newman from Channel 4 had been on the 'phone to check.
Iraq Inquiry Debate
Asked whether the Prime Minister would be taking part in the Iraq debate today, the PMOS said the Prime Minister and the Government were very clear in their view of the issue at the core of this. As the PMOS had said yesterday, and as the Government motion acknowledged, we continued to learn lessons all the time in Iraq, and apply those lessons.
When asked whom journalists should call regarding an HM Government response to the vote tonight the PMOS said that journalists should wait for the result of the vote, as he would not predict the outcome. Asked if the Prime Minister would be voting tonight and if had anything to keep him away from the House the PMOS replied that it would be best to wait and see.
Asked what the next steps were post-Stern and whether the Germans would need persuading on Friday, the PMOS said, as way of background, we had initiated several things before Stern: Gleneagles; then the Gleneagles plus five dialogue, which had made real progress in Mexico; now we would see the German Presidency of the G8 where Chancellor Merkel had already indicated that energy would be one of the subjects for that. We would obviously want to discuss with the Germans how they took that forward. The informal summit at Lahti had been very interesting in this regard. The joint letter that the Prime Minister and Prime Minister Balkenende of the Netherlands had sent now represented the consensus of European thinking on this subject. Climate Change and energy security were two sides of the same coin. There was the need to give the signal to the private sector and lever into R&D to get the new technology we needed. The other side was bringing in those who had not signed up to Kyoto, which meant not just the USA but also India and China. Hence the G8 +5 discussions.
Iraq Inquiry Debate
Asked to comment on Hilary Benn's interview on Radio 4 today where he had said that he did not rule out an inquiry at some stage into the causes of war in Iraq the PMOS said, as he had said this morning we continued to learn lessons all the time in Iraq, and apply those lessons. The PMOS had no doubt at all that at the end of our engagement there people would want to look back and learn the lessons of the engagement. However, the time to deal with that was then not now.
Asked what Sir Nigel Sheinwald's purpose was in his visit to Syria, the PMOS replied that we have official relations with Damascus and continue to do so. Asked if there was a hope that Syria could be used to put pressure on Iran and its role on Iraq, the PMOS replied that the key relationship was between Iraq and Syria. Iraq was a legitimate elected Government with its own view of the role of Syria in Iraq. In our terms of relations with Syria, Syria had always faced a choice. It can play a constructive role in international affairs or it can continue to support terrorism; the key question is what choice does it make. Asked if Syria made the choice to be constructive would there be a gap to prove their support or not the PMOS replied that what was important was that Syria recognised the choice and was seen to address that choice. Asked if Washington was aware of Sir Nigel's visit the PMOS replied that a wide range of issues are discussed with our American allies.
Asked what the Prime Minister's assessment was on Korea's decision to return to the 6 Party talks the PMOS replied that it would be best to wait and see what they said in the 6 Party talks but hoped that they would adopt a constructive attitude, recognised the genuine international concern that there has been about the nuclear test, and say that they will not carry out any more tests.
Asked if the Prime Minister was adamant that he would not agree to a Franks style inquiry into the Iraq war, including in when deployment was over, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that people really needed to ask themselves how such an announcement now would be treated when our soldiers were still very much serving overseas and when operations were very much on going. In whose interests would it be to make such an announcement now. That questioned answered itself.
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