» Monday, February 21, 2011

Middle East

Asked how the Prime Minister would answer the charge that the current trip was initially going to be used as an opportunity to sell British produce including arms, and only in the last few days had it turned into the democracy tour’, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) told the assembled press that there were three key aims for the trip; encouraging political reform, giving British business a boost and strengthening our security ties. This region was vital to UK interests and a reformed Middle East would mean a more secure, more prosperous region and those three objectives were mutually supportive.

Asked if the Prime Minister would feel any discomfort if British arms were used to suppress protests in the Middle East, the PMS replied that we kept our export licensing regime under review for each country. The PMS said she could confirm that we had revoked eight licenses in Libya since the outbreak of violence and we would continue to monitor the situation closely.

On whether that was all export licenses for Libya, the PMS advised people to speak to the Department for Business. Asked what had changed in the last few days for licenses to be revoked, the PMS replied that they were considered on a case by case basis against a set of criteria.

Put that revoking licenses was like admitting that it was a mistake to give them out in the first place, the PMS said that licenses were kept constantly under review against established criteria. In light of the present circumstances, those licenses had been revoked.

Asked for a list of the business delegation, the PMS said that the businesses ranged from the construction industry, manufacturing, finance, defence and representatives from some universities.

On whether any defence contracts would be announced as part of the visit, the PMS said that she would not confirm any contracts ahead of them being announced.

Asked if the Prime Minister was aware of comments made by Colonel Gadaffi’s son yesterday, the PMS said that the Prime Minister was aware of those comments. We were watching events in Libya very closely. The Prime Minister’s view was that the Libyan Government’s actions were horrifying and unacceptable and would result in worldwide condemnation. We would continue to encourage the Libyan Government to embark on dialogue, not confrontation.

Asked about the Prime Minister encouraging political reform, the PMS said that reform was an important part of the Prime Minister’s trip. Each country had different issues, but what would be consistent throughout the trip was the Prime Minister encouraging reform, not repression. The PMS said reform and the aspirations of the people went hand in hand.

Asked why the PMS had not mentioned the word election’, the PMS said a lot would be said over the next few days, but more broadly, reform was essential and that would take many different shapes in different countries. The PMS added that the Prime Minister would not be lecturing countries, but views would be shared.

Asked if the Prime Minister thought he would be welcomed by the people of Egypt, the PMS replied that the UK was a key partner of Egypt and our relationship went back a long way. The Prime Minister was looking forward to the trip and meeting representatives of the opposition in Egypt.

original source.

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