» Tuesday, February 22, 2005


Asked if France and Germany were planning ahead in the form of training, or were they contributing towards a trust fund, and also why the Prime Minister appeared to be keeping a low profile today, the PMOS said the first question was really a matter for France and Germany. His understanding was they would be helping in training, and that Germany had already started in the UAE. In response to the second part of the question, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister used this morning to make his comments about the Middle East, and to underline what he thought was the importance and true significance about what President Bush had said in his speech yesterday, especially about the Middle East. The Prime Minister believed this was an important time for the Middle East, not least because of the run up to the Palestine Conference in London next week. The PMOS also pointed out to journalists that the main focus of attention today was President Bush and his exchanges with NATO and the EU.

Asked if the involvement of France and Germany might signal the withdrawal of British troops, and if so, when might that occur, the PMOS said the Government would make troop announcements as and when we were ready to do so. With regards to troops, the process of Iraqiisation had to go hand-in-hand with the development of the capacity in Iraq to handle its own security. It also had to go hand-in-hand with the Iraqi Government’s views on what its security forces could handle, and what its wishes were about the role of a multinational force. Therefore, it was premature to jump to other conclusions, and instead, it should be taken step by step.

Asked what the Prime Minister thought was the main accomplishment by President Bush during his visit, the PMOS said that what was important was there was both a NATO and an EU dialogue about how we help the Iraqi Government. We were also talking about how we support the Ukrainian Government, and how we push forward to Middle East process at a very crucial time. The Palestine Conference in London, for example, would be aimed at taking that forward in a practical way, rather than making grand statements. It was also about how we could help build its security capacity, civil administration capacity and political institutions so it would be a viable democratic partner for Israel to engage with.

Put to him that the response to Iraq was going to be done by individual NATO countries other than NATO, could it be clarified how it was seen to be a NATO action, the PMOS said that as far as it was agreed at a NATO meeting, all NATO members would contribute. Therefore, people would be aware of what they were doing, but the PMOS left the details to NATO to outline.

Asked if therefore this had been discussed at a EU meeting, the PMOS said that it had been dealt with at a NATO meeting. The EU contained members who were not members of NATO.

Asked if Mr Solana was speaking for the Prime Minister when he expressed marked pessimism about what the trans-Atlantic relationship could achieve in Iran, the PMOS replied that Mr Solana spoke for himself. The Prime Minister’s view of the strength of the Trans-Atlantic Alliance, and the benefit it brought to the UK was expressed explicatively after his meeting with President Bush this morning. The PMOS said he did not think anyone who heard what he said would be surprised by one "syllable" of it. Under the new EU Constitution, Britain would still be able to express its view independently and decide its own foreign policy.

Put to him that what would be seen at the end of today would be contributions from all the NATO countries, but not a NATO contribution, i.e. it would be individual rather than corporate, the PMOS said that what would be seen was commitment by NATO members to help in the process of Iraqiisation. The idea of the conference, if agreed by the New Iraqi Government would help coordinate in other ways as well. The PMOS said people should not, in any way, underestimate what that meant, as there was a genuine consensus to help the new Iraqi Government establish not only itself, but also democracy permanently in Iraq. As with Afghanistan, that was a major step forward and should never in any way be underestimated.

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

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