United Kingdom
Prime Minister's Official Spokesman
Lobby Briefing
London, England
September 19, 2001
11:00 A.M. GMT

The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) outlined plans for the rest of the week.

The Prime Minister had met the Taioseach earlier today and would meet David Trimble later. He would then travel to meet the German Chancellor before flying to Paris in advance of seeing President Chirac tomorrow. He would then set off for New York followed by travelling to Washington for a meeting and dinner with the President of the United States. From there he would travel to Brussels for the special European Council.

The PMOS said that the Foreign Secretary had written an article which was being published in a number of regional evening newspapers where there was a substantial Muslim community including Bradford, Leeds, Wolverhampton and Birmingham. Other events today included the Defence Secretary meeting his Kuwaiti counterpart. The Home Secretary would be visiting Dover to announce new immigration and asylum measures.

The PMOS said that as anyone who had been at the press conference this morning would have heard the Prime Minister had been very heartened by the growing consensus around the world. And he believed that process had only been helped by the ceasefires in the Middle East which we felt did offer the prospect of reinvigorating the Middle East Peace Process. Maximum effort would be put in to moving that forward. He also welcomed the meeting in Washington between President Bush and the President of Indonesia, the largest Muslim nation which was supporting the growing consensus.

Asked about the Home Secretary's announcements the PMOS said that as we had said from the start we needed to look both at our own measures domestically and inter-link those with the international community. Obviously the measures being announced today, which had been being worked on for some time, played into that. Among the measures were five new mobile x-ray scanners to be used on both sides of the Channel. Introducing CCTV at Heathrow for the immigration service. The trial of 'heart-beat' sensors to aid the detection of stowaways in soft skinned vehicles and an analysis of thermal imaging techniques. We would continue to look at whatever measures were necessary and introduce them as and when possible.

Asked about the threat of terrorism by illegal immigrants and 'sleeper cells' the PMOS said that as the Home Secretary had said this morning we would continue to monitor the threat assessment and take appropriate steps as necessary. Asked if this would mean legislation the PMOS said that we would deal with these issues on a case by case basis. The Home Affairs Council would tomorrow be looking at the issues of extradition laws and EU-wide arrest warrants. The Commission today would be publishing their own proposals. We would hope these would then be worked up for the Laeken Summit in December.

Asked if the Prime Minister felt developments in political areas such as the Middle East were as important as the military side the PMOS said that we had always believed it was important to move forward both in the political and diplomatic spheres. This was why even before last week we were pushing for the reinvigoration of the Middle East Peace Process. Which was why we welcomed the start- and we would stress start - of that process during the last 24 hours. In terms of the broader question, as the PM had said during his interview for the BBC World Service it was important that we were seeing a gathering consensus both at home and abroad. He drew attention to comments by the Muslim Council for Britain and the Manchester Community Relations Council who had both complained about the amount of media coverage being given to a relatively small number of extreme voices compared to the broad sweep of Muslim opinion. As the Muslim Council of Britain had said, whenever they had gone to see the American Ambassador to express their condolences and to share in the sense of outrage they had received very little coverage.

Asked if the Government was reviewing its approach to Iraq the PMOS said there had been no change. As to whether there was any link between Iraq and the events of last week he said there was a continuous process of assessment which it would not be helpful to go into. Asked if the British Government thought that the removal of Saddam Hussein was a legitimate foreign policy objective the PMOS reiterated that our position had not changed. We wanted Iraq to comply with the international community's demands in terms of weapons of mass destruction. Which was the reason why we had imposed sanctions. Put to him that the Prime Minister had made clear in previous comments that he regarded Saddam Hussein to be pretty much beyond the pale the PMOS said that as always the Prime Minister's words spoke for themselves.

Asked about the Prime Minister's appeal for intelligence on Bin Laden the PMOS said that he would not comment on intelligence issues. The Prime Minister had indicated that we regarded him as the prime suspect but equally the PM had been clear that what we were talking about was not just an individual but a network that needed to be dismantled. Therefore we were also looking at those who harbor or help terrorists in any way.

Asked for the latest on British casualties the PMOS said there had been no change, the figures were somewhere between 200 and 300 victims. But again journalists should realise the difficulties that the New York authorities were facing in establishing a firm total. As the Ambassador had said yesterday the consulate were working closely with the Missing Person bureau established at Scotland Yard.

Asked about domestic security at establishments such as nuclear power stations the PMOS said that as we had said yesterday we would respond to any threat assessment. This remained under constant review.


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