» Tuesday, April 13, 2004


Asked what the Prime Minister’s view was on calls by the opposition to send a senior figure out to Iraq following Jeremy Greenstock’s departure, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman said that David Richmond was already working closely with Ambassador Bremer in Baghdad. David Richmond was himself an Ambassador and was an expert in the region with a lot of experience. Asked if the Prime Minister would be taking a message to President Bush, about US military tactics, the PMS said that they would discuss the situation in Iraq as well as the Middle East Peace Process and various other issues. The PMS said that we were in agreement with the US about the overall strategy and approach to dealing with Iraq. There were no differences there and we were very aware that people have to make decisions on the ground to deal with specific situations as they arose. British commanders had to take decisions on the ground, as did the American military. In answer to further questioning the PMS said that it was too easy for people to sit in London and make judgements about what was happening without being there, but it was the people on the ground that actually had to make decisions based on the individual circumstances they faced. There were significant and serious security challenges facing the military on the ground in Iraq but it was the Government’s view that it was only a few groups that were trying to prevent democracy being established and we didn’t want them to succeed. No doubt these issues would be discussed in Washington but it would not be right to prejudge the outcome of the Prime Minister’ meeting with the President.

Asked if the Prime Minister would be asking for greater UN involvement in Iraq when he meets with the UN Secretary General. The PMS said that the Prime Minister would discuss with the Secretary General how the UN would continue to work in the area and what role they would play. They would discuss the issues facing Iraq, the UN as an organisation and Britain’ s involvement in the UN. The Prime Minister would be looking to hear from Kofi Annan about how he sees the UN role and to discuss how things would develop following the 30 June handover. It was a two way process.

Asked if the 30 June date was fixed in concrete the Prime Minister’s Spokesman referred journalists to the Prime Minister’s Observer newspaper article from the weekend and said nothing had changed since then. The Prime Minister thought it was important that we continue to be in Iraq. There were problems which had to be overcome, but people would be critical of us if we were not working towards a date. This date was about trying to help the Iraqi people take over and run their own affairs and that was what we were working towards. Nothing had changed.

Asked if the Prime Minister was actively seeking to get other countries involved in Iraq, the PMS reminded journalists that the Prime Minister had spent a lot of time before the military conflict meeting with world leaders looking for support. There were already 30 countries providing troops and many more providing other forms of assistance. The Prime Minister had spoken to Prime MinisterBerlusconi over the weekend about Iraq following his visit, but was not aware of any other conversations.

Asked if there were any plans for additional UK troop deployment to Iraq the PMS reiterated Geoff Hoon’s comments that there were no plans but we always had to take in account specific circumstances.

Briefing took place at 16:15 | Search for related news

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