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Extracts From 10 Downing St Press Breifings

From...
LOBBY BRIEFING: 11AM TUESDAY 5 MARCH 2002
LOBBY BRIEFING: 4PM TUESDAY 5 MARCH 2002

IRAQ

Questioned as to whether the Prime Minister was concerned about the growing number of backbenchers who were opposed to action against Iraq, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister's position on Iraq was clear. We had no intention of burying our heads in the sand and pretending the issue did not exist. Obviously it did. However, no decisions had been taken at this stage, although we acknowledged that the issue did form part of our ongoing discussions with our allies.

AFGHANISTAN

Asked whether any British forces were involved in the current offensive in Afghanistan, the PMOS said not as far as he was aware.


PM'S CLOTHES

Asked by ITN whether the Prime Minister was 'pleased or irritated' by the media's coverage of his clothes, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said he was pleased to see ITN once again at the cutting edge of political journalism. Pressed for a response, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister wore what the Prime Minister wore. In the last twenty-four hours he had been asked about the Prime Minister's shirt, tattoos on various parts of the Prime Minister's anatomy and now whether the Prime Minister was pleased or irritated by the media's coverage of his clothes. He believed he now knew in which direction political journalism was headed. In answer to further questions, the PMOS asked whether journalists had any serious points to put to him or whether he could finish up here and go and have a cup of coffee.

PETER MANDELSON

Asked to confirm reports that Peter Mandelson was about to be appointed the next Ambassador to Berlin, the PMOS said that this question did not count as serious journalism either.

STEEL

Asked again about the Prime Minister's view on possible US steel tariffs, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister had sent a letter to President Bush on this matter and the two had also discussed the issue last week in their phonecall before the Prime Minister's departure for CHOGM. President Bush had said that he had found the letter thoughtful. Our position on steel tariffs was clear. The UK steel industry had already gone through the pain of a restructuring exercise. We recognised that the US had yet to go through that process. We did not believe that tariffs would help either the world economy, the European economy, the UK economy or the US economy because in the end it would be US consumers who would have to pay higher prices either through the extra costs on imported steel or on rising US steel prices.

PM'S SHIRT

Asked if it was true that the Prime Minister did not have pictures of nude women on his shirt cuffs after all, the PMOS said that he stood by his comments made this morning. The standards of political journalism in this country were clearly not what they once were.

ENDS

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