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10 Downing Street - Lobby Briefing November 29th


Memorial Service

The PMOS advised journalists that the Prime Minister would be attending the Memorial Service at Westminster Abbey at midday today. It would obviously be a sombre occasion and would give people the chance to pause, remember and pay their respects to the victims of September 11 and their families. The event would also provide an opportunity to reflect on why we were taking the action we were taking, namely to prevent any such atrocity happening again.

War Cabinet

The PMOS advised that the Prime Minister had chaired a meeting of the War Cabinet this morning. Ministers had reviewed the situation on the ground in Afghanistan, particularly the area around Kandahar and the continuing search for bin Laden and the Taliban Leadership. They had also reviewed the ongoing negotiations in Bonn and had noted the surprisingly good atmosphere there, expressing the hope that that would continue. The humanitarian situation had also been discussed. Clare Short had reported that the World Food Programme had met its target of 56,000 tonnes for November, although security obviously remained a problem in certain areas. Ms Short had also noted that women had been returning to the food agencies in Kabul.

Questioned as to whether the War Cabinet had discussed the killing of the Taliban prisoners in Mazar-e-Sharif and whether they believed it had been acceptable, the PMOS said it had not been raised as a specific issue. It had been mentioned briefly within the discussion on the general situation.

Extending the Campaign

Asked about Geoff Hoon's comment yesterday that military action in countries which were not strong enough to tackle terrorism was legitimate, the PMOS said that as Mr Hoon himself had made clear, he had not been talking about Iraq. Rather, he had been discussing a hypothetical situation in which a country was not strong enough to deal with any terrorists residing in it. As he had underlined, that remained an 'if', rather than an immediate question to be addressed. Asked which countries the Defence Secretary had had in mind, the PMOS repeated that Mr Hoon had been talking about a hypothetical situation. At this stage we were focussing on addressing the immediate the questions relating to Afghanistan.

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