» Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Middle East

Asked to clarify the Prime Minister's remarks claiming that Hezbollah's weapons had been supplied by Iran and were very similar to weapons used by militants in Basra, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that there were a range of weapons being used in Lebanon against Israel and Israeli forces. The point that the Prime Minister had been making was that he had serious concerns, concerns which he had highlighted after the Hampton Court summit, about weaponry in Basra being of Iranian design. Those concerns had not declined since Hampton Court, in fact the reverse. Therefore the substantive point he was making was simply highlighting the link between Iran, Hezbollah forces in Lebanon and militants in Basra.

Briefing took place at 9:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Home Office Reforms

Asked what was happening with the Immigration and Nationality Department (IND) today, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said, without getting ahead of the Home Secretary's statement this afternoon, that today the Home Secretary would be announcing structural changes. Next week he would be announcing changes to the IND immigration criteria. However, it was important to set the scene: this was about making the department as a whole fit for the modern day challenges. This addressed the future challenges, which the Prime Minister set out in his forward to the capability reviews where he outlined five themes that underlined all the reviews: a clear focus on the respective roles, responsibilities and accountabilities of ministers and civil servants; transformation of central headquarters into strategic centres with delivery devolved to the frontline; improving the way that departments engaged with individuals and communities; strengthening the links between the centre and the frontline in particular so that experiences get fed back from the frontline; and delivering a step change in the professional skills of the civil service. We were publishing four reviews today - Home Office, DfES, DWP, DCA - the rest of the seventeen would be rolled out in due course with another batch coming before Christmas.

Briefing took place at 9:00 | Read whole briefing | Comment (1)

Other Business

Asked if the Prime Minister or Downing Street had had any approach from the police with regards to an interview about cash for honours, the PMOS said no.

Briefing took place at 9:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Middle East Crisis

Asked whether the Prime Minister supported moves for an immediate ceasefire, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister had all the way through stated that he would like to see the conflict stop now. He had also been making a broader point that the only way to get the conflict to stop was if people believed that there was a process to be put in place that would create a sustainable peace. A quick fix would not do. People could have the pleasure of calling for an immediate ceasefire, but if it did not deliver it was a fairly pointless exercise. A sustainable process was needed that not only delivered peace today, but a peace for the future. Israel was not going to be reassured if it believed that it would continue to be the subject of rocket attacks from Lebanon. There had been no sign that Hezbollah had recognised the need for it to stop its activities. A sustainable process would result in a sustainable peace. We welcomed the efforts of the UN that built on the G8 communiqué. Mark Malloch Brown had spoken this morning supporting the idea of an international force. In addition to this we supported the efforts of Javier Solana. The next steps would be the report back to the UN on Thursday or Friday and the US announcement of a visit by Condoleezza Rice to the region. Those were important steps in the process, but people had to recognise that this would only succeed if there were commitments from both sides to stop, not just for today, but also for good.

Asked what would happen after the UN report, the PMOS said that it would depend on what the report back said and, although Kofi Annan and Mark Malloch Brown had supported the idea, it would have to listen to the view of the UN Security Council as a whole. The G8 could support an idea but the UN had to implement it.

Briefing took place at 9:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

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