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UK Government Press Briefing


Press Briefing: 3.45pm Tuesday 10 February 2004

Libya

Asked if any further details about a possible Prime Ministerial trip to Libya were available, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that it was important to take things one step at a time. As the Foreign Secretary had said in his press conference with the Libyan Foreign Minister this morning, considerable progress had been made since 19 December 2003 when Libya had made its historic announcement about WMD.

Obviously we wanted to see that progress continue. It was within that context that the possibility of further visits could be considered. At the moment, however, we were not yet at that stage. Asked if a visit might take place this year, the PMOS said he did not think it would be helpful to engage in speculation about possible timeframes. We were in the process of establishing a new relationship with Libya. In order to build on that, it was important to maintain momentum and keep a check on the progress that was being made. Asked if the Prime Minister would visit Colonel Gaddafi in Tripoli or whether the meeting might take place in a third country, the PMOS cautioned journalists against jumping too far ahead of themselves. It was important to take things one step at a time. We would have to keep a check on progress.

Asked if making progress was a condition for arranging a visit, the PMOS said that the whole process had been about establishing progress. At this stage, we were satisfied that good progress was being made. Asked if the murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher was the major stumbling block at the moment, in the light of the fact that there had been recent movement on Lockerbie and WMD, the PMOS said that he had no intention of characterising one issue as having greater priority than any other. As Mr Straw had said this morning, and as the Libyan Minister had concurred, we were hoping for greater transparency and co-operation. The investigation into WPC Fletcher's murder was an operational matter for the Met Police - which, as the Libyans were well aware, we supported in full.

EU DEFENCE

Asked if the Anglo-French initiative would be discussed at the trilateral between the Prime Minister, President Chirac and Chancellor Schroeder next week, the PMOS said he was not aware if that specific issue would be on the agenda. The FT story today had reflected the continuing work arising from the Communiqué which had been released at the end of the Anglo-French Summit last November - no more, no less. The initiative was not about establishing a permanent unit. It was about identifying the personnel who might take part in initiatives to deal with short-term management crisis situations, such as the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and making sure that they would know how to work together should the need arise.

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