» Thursday, September 24, 2009

Meeting with President Obama

Asked to confirm that five requests were made for the Prime Minister to have a bilateral meeting with President Obama and why the leaders had met in the kitchen, the Prime Minister s Spokesperson (PMS) said Downing Street agreed with the White House assessment that the stories were totally absurd . Downing Street had said all along that formal bilateral meetings were not pinned down and that President Obama and the Prime Minister would spend time together in New York and at the G20 where they would discuss pressing issues such as Afghanistan.

Regarding the phone calls, as would be expected in the run up to a summit of this nature, there would be numerous calls between officials at Number 10 and the White House and those calls would have discussed the timing for potential meetings, therefore Downing Street whole-heartedly agreed with the assessment of the White House.

Regarding the meeting in the kitchen, anyone who had been to a large international summit of this type would know that meetings took place in corridors, kitchens and other parts of the building, outside the auditorium. This was not unusual.

Asked if the Prime Minister would sit alongside Presidents Zadari and Obama at the Friends of Democratic Pakistan Meeting, the PMS said the three leaders would sit at a top table to chair the meeting. There would be opening and closing remarks. The Prime Minister s remarks were scheduled to be at 1800.

Asked if by describing the stories as totally absurd , the PMS meant the stories were true but she found them absurd, the PMS clarified she had referred the lobby to how the White House had described the stories. Downing Street had said all along that the meeting situation was fluid but that the Prime Minister and President Obama would be with each other at several of the meetings planned over the week and in Pittsburgh. Downing Street had expected them to have the opportunity to speak. That is what had happened.

Asked if she denied there were five attempts to secure a meeting and how long the meeting in the kitchen had been, the PMS said she did not know exact timings of the meeting. There would have been numerous calls. But the precise number of phone calls was not the issue. These had been normal discussions between the offices of two world leaders in the run up to an international summit.

Asked if the Prime Minister was still officially the chair of the G20 summit, the PMS confirmed he was.

Put that it was odd for the chair not to have a meeting with the President hosting the G20, the PMS said there had been a long and detailed phone call a few weeks ago, they had had time speaking together in New York and would do so in Pittsburgh as well.

Asked if there was irritation on the part of the Prime Minister s team that a British diplomat in New York gave the story legs , the PMS said she would not comment on how the story appeared to have been sourced. Downing Street did not recognise the terms referred to in the story.

Asked if she accepted the story was running strongly because British diplomats were behind it and what did that say about relations between Number 10 and the team in New York, the PMS repeated that she would not comment on the sourcing of a story. That was a matter for the lobby.

Asked if she would deny that there had been concerns expressed by the Obama administration about Lockerbie in the phone call and subsequently and that there were tensions, the PMS said she would not agree with that characterisation. There had been a briefing at the time on the content of the phone call. The lobby were directed to the White House statement about the UK US relationship, it said that President Obama and the Prime Minister enjoyed a terrific relationship .

Asked if the Prime Minister had expressed any view about Colonel Gaddafi s behaviour, the PMS said that when the Prime Minister had stood on the podium following Colonel Gaddafi, the way he had expressed himself and his regard for the United Nations had been a comment in itself.

Asked if there was any embarrassment that the Prime Minister was now so closely associated with Colonel Gaddafi, the PMS said she would again not agree with the characterisation of the question.

original source.

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

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