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Few UK Politicians Greet Bush - Blair Not An Issue

Few UK Politicians Greet Bush – Blair Says Not An Issue

Press Briefing: 3.45pm Wednesday 19 November 2003 Re: President Bush

Asked for the Prime Minister's reaction to the content and tone of the President's speech, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister had thought it had been seriously impressive and very thoughtful. It had covered a wide range of significant issues, including how to meet the security challenges of the twenty first century, as well as the opportunities that went hand in hand with that, such as making progress in the Middle East and seeing the spread of democracy and freedom. He also thought it had been an extremely articulate account of the shared values which united our two countries for good. Asked whether he meant 'for good' against evil or forever, the PMOS said both. Asked why there had been so few British politicians in the audience for the President's speech, the PMOS pointed out that the Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary had been present. The President was also due to meet other senior politicians during the course of this afternoon. In addition, a number of politicians would be attending the State Banquet this evening. He didn't think it was an issue.

The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) previewed the Prime Minister and President's roundtable discussion on HIV/Aids tomorrow afternoon and gave journalists some background. The President would be joined by his Global Aids Co-ordinator, Randall Tobias. The International Development Secretary, Hilary Benn would also attend. Representatives from Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda and Zambia would be present, as well as members of charities, NGOs and people from the business community. The meeting would provide an opportunity to underline the importance of the fight against HIV/Aids and the efforts which both the UK and the US were making. The PMOS informed journalists that 42 million people were living with HIV, 71% of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Globally, there were 3 million deaths from Aids last year and 5 million new infections. In terms of funding, President Bush had committed $15bn over five years. The UK's bilateral funding had increased in the past six years from £38m to more than £270m in 2002/3. Questioned as to whether there would be an increase in contributions to the Global Fund tomorrow, the PMOS said he didn't think so. Both the UK Government and the US Administration had already set out their current spending commitments in this area. Tomorrow's meeting was an opportunity to hear from different people in the field about how we could meet some of the challenges facing us together. It was not an occasion for pre-cooked announcements. The PMOS said that Mrs Blair and the First Lady would watch a group of 11-15 year-olds, who were taking part in the Shakespeare Schools Festival, performing in Downing Street. There would be scenes from a Midsummer Night's Dream, Richard III and Macbeth. The programme was an initiative which offered youngsters the chance to perform Shakespeare in a professional theatre environment. The students participating tomorrow would be from schools from Harrogate, Huddersfield and Newton Abbott.

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