» Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Asked if the Prime Minister welcomed the briefing from the White House today that 22,000 extra troops would be sent to Iraq, and that the whole of the country could be under Iraqi control by the end of the year, the PMOS replied that he would prefer to wait until President Bush had spoken later tonight. The PMOS reiterated that we would wait for the American proposals, and he underlined that in terms of the situation in Baghdad and Basra, as we had said when we visited recently, the situation on the ground was very different in the two cities. Therefore, the policy in Basra would be dictated by the conditions on the ground in Basra.

Asked if there had been much consultation between the Prime Minister and President Bush on this, the PMOS said that in terms of policy development within Iraq, it was a matter that we continually discussed with all our coalition partners, as well as with the Iraqi Government. In terms of the proposals being put forward today, they were US proposals, and therefore, were a matter for the US Administration to address.

Asked whether the Prime Minister would make a statement following on from the President’s speech on our position on policy and troops, the PMOS said that the premise of the question ignored the fact that the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Defence Secretary had all made very clear statements about our position in recent weeks and months. Therefore, today’s announcement was not something which we had been waiting for before we had set out our position. That position was that with Operation Sinbad underway, we were assessing how that would go, but increasingly, there was Iraqi control of areas of Basra, and an Iraqi lead on the security side. Therefore, that was part of an evolving picture, but it did depend on continuing assessments of the situation on the ground in Basra. It was a policy which would evolve as the conditions on the ground evolved.

Asked if we did not expect any significant shift in British policy following on from what we expected President Bush to say tonight, the PMOS replied that we would obviously want to see what President Bush announced and to see if that did have implications. However, in terms of the overall policy, that had been set out clearly by the Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary.

Asked to explain about Operation Sinbad and was it the process of training up troops, the PMOS explained that it was the process of going through Basra, sector by sector, to get rid of the insurgency problems there. Increasingly, that was being led by the Iraqi security forces, and they then would take control of those areas, with us acting in a backup capacity. The PMOS said that Operation Sinbad was just over halfway through, but we would assess its overall impact as things continued.

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

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