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Downing St Tuesday 22 October Briefing (Morning)

Tuesday 22 October morning government press briefing

IRAQ

Questioned as to whether Downing Street welcomed President Bush's apparent change of emphasis on regime change in Iraq, the PMOS said that regime change in respect of Iraq had been US policy under both the current and previous Presidents. However, the issue facing us had always been about disarming Saddam Hussein of his Weapons of Mass Destruction. We were close to seeing a UN Resolution tabled which would give a fresh mandate to the UN Weapons Inspectors and allow them to return to Iraq and do their job properly. The disarmament of Saddam was not negotiable. How it might happen was entirely up to him.

In answer to questions about continuing Russian concerns regarding the new UN Resolution, the PMOS said that the UN process would only begin when a text was formally tabled to all 15 members. We had not yet reached that point. At the moment, a text was circulating among members of the P5. Nevertheless, discussions were continuing. Over recent weeks, it was clear that differences had been narrowing and that was continuing.

Questioned about the Saddam Hussein's amnesty for political prisoners, the PMOS said that no one had been duped by these empty gestures given this was a tyrant who brutalised his people in a systematic and cruel way. We wanted to ensure that he fulfilled his obligations under existing UN Resolutions with a fresh mandate for the UN Weapons Inspectors.

ENDS

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