The PMOS reiterated that there were no plans for the Prime Minister to have a personal butler. He added that this was an invention of the newspapers, but what there were plans to have, as there have been under every Prime Minister, a house manager for Downing Street. The house manager would look after the House, not the family.
Asked if the Prime Minister was confident, as the Iraqi Vice President Mr. Hashemi was, that if the armed forces in Iraq were reformed UK forces could be withdrawn in a year's time, the PMOS said that he had not seen the briefing to which the reporter referred but the Prime Minister was meeting Mr. Hashemi at the moment. In terms of the overall situation it depended on the conditions on the ground. The policy of Iraqisation is one that the UK has been pursuing since Easter 2004. It is a process of making sure that the Iraqi have the capacity and capability to run things themselves. That is our aspiration but it does depend on the conditions on the ground.
Troops and Afghanistan
Asked if the Prime Minister would be pressing President Musharraf and the Pakistani government to do more following comments made by John Negroponte that Al-Qaeda was operating freely in Pakistan, the PMOS said that when the Prime Minister was last in Pakistan, before Christmas we were assured by President Musharraf that Pakistan was doing everything it could to counter the influence of Al-Qaeda in that region. We have seen progress in that regard in recent months.
Act of Union
Asked if, as the Opposition had suggested, that the appointment of Lord Triesman was an admission of failure, the PMOS said he did not want to get into party politics but in terms of the rationale a large part of the discussion around this issue involves relations with foreign countries and therefore necessitates a focus on developing relations and understandings with foreign countries. Therefore it is entirely appropriate that a minister in the Foreign Office takes on this role. Asked why now as it was an odd time to do it as the Prime Minister had been on the subject for some years now, the PMOS said we have made some progress in terms of memorandums of understanding and so on, but it is an issue which the Prime Minister is determined to make progress on in the months ahead.
Asked if Jonathan Powell had been interviewed, the PMOS said he did not talk about civil servants and Jonathan Powell is, as a special adviser, a temporary civil servant.
300th Anniversary of Act of Union
Asked if the Prime Minister would be participating in any of the Act of Union celebrations, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) replied that he was not aware at this stage that the Prime Minister was.
Asked if the Prime Minister had had any contact with Robert Gates, the PMOS said that they had met yesterday. They had discussed the US plan for Baghdad, its welcome by the Iraqi Government, and moving forward. However, the PMOS said that he would leave the full details of the discussion, as they were private.
Asked why the Prime Minister had appointed Lord Triesman as Special Envoy, the PMOS said that as people knew, returning people from abroad, and failed migrants, was one of the Government's priorities, and what we wanted to encourage was other countries to accept these people. Therefore, what we needed was a Special Envoy to work in conjunction with the Home Office with foreign governments to significantly increase the number of people returned to countries who were in the UK illegally. We also wanted to open up new routes to countries from which the UK had experienced large numbers of failed asylum seekers and had not been able to return them. The Special Envoy would review the existing arrangements and try to ensure that they were efficient, effective and sustainable.
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