» Monday, September 10, 2007


Asked whether British troops should remain in Basra, after suggestions were made in the press by a British officer that troops could have been pulled out over five months ago, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman told the assembled press that the Ministry of Defence had made the position very clear. The Government was able to hand over Basra Palace because of progress made and capability demonstrated by Iraqi security forces, particularly the army. The PMS added that Basra Palace was only handed over this month because that was when conditions were right and the Iraqi forces were ready to take over.

Asked if the Patreus Report would influence the timing of the return of any more British troops, the PMS replied that Patreus had not reported yet and the Government would wait until he did so before commenting on it. The PMS said that in general terms, the Prime Minister had made clear on numerous occasions that the Government had obligations to the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government as well as the United Nations, but that any decisions to be made in relation to British troops, would be made on the basis of an assessment of the situation on the ground by military commanders.

In response to the suggestion that the Daily Telegraph article was correct and at least some of the deaths of British troops since April may have been purely political ones to maintain the Government’s relationship with George Bush, the PMS said that the Ministry of Defence had made it clear that the article was not correct and the decision to hand over Basra Palace to the Iraqi security authorities was only made this month because that was when the Iraqi security forces were ready to take over responsibility. Asked what the PMS thought the Officer quoted in the articles motive was, the PMS said he had no idea.

Asked if the officer involved was incorrect in what he said, the PMS replied that it was for the military and the Ministry of Defence to provide commentary on that and they had made their position very clear.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news

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