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Wednesday 30 October Downing St Briefing

Wednesday 30 October morning government press briefing
[30 October 2002]


PRESS BRIEFING: 11AM WEDNESDAY 30 OCTOBER 2002


NORTHERN IRELAND

Asked for a reaction to Martin McGuinness's declaration in a TV documentary that 'the war was over', the PMOS said that since the Prime Minister's speech in Northern Ireland two weeks ago, there had been a number of 'straws in the wind' which we felt had been very interesting and useful. One was Gerry Adams' thoughtful speech last weekend, to which David Trimble himself had responded in a positive and thoughtful way. Mr McGuinness's comments had been a useful postscript and his language had been interesting. Everyone now recognised that we had reached a fork in the road and that we had to think seriously about acts of completion. At this stage, we were still only talking about it, rather than undertaking any action plans. However, the fact that we were at that point at all should not be under-estimated.

Asked whether 'acts of completion' was a euphemism for disbanding the IRA, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister himself had used the term specifically and had not elaborated on it. As we had learned from past experience, it was never a useful exercise to get caught up on one particular word. Nevertheless, the Prime Minister had made clear that if the process was to continue, we had to see an end to paramilitary activity.

IRAQ

Asked whether we were becoming increasingly irritated with the UN over the protracted negotiations to agree a UN Resolution on Iraq, the PMOS said that Jack Straw had addressed this point in his interview on the Today Programme this morning. As he had pointed out, constructive discussions were continuing at the UN. Clearly this was a process which was resulting in a genuine meeting of minds. Of course that did not mean that we had a result at this time. It was, however, a strong indication that we were at or near the point of decision. Whether that would happen this week or next week was less important than the fact that progress was continuing to be made.

Asked to confirm a report in today's Guardian which suggested that secret talks between France and other members of the P5 had taken place in recent days to resolve the issue, the PMOS said that private discussions had been ongoing at the UN ever since mid-September when the process had first begun. However, while it was important to recognise that these discussions were constructive, equally, journalists should be wary about getting too ahead of themselves at this point.

ENDS

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