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No. 10 Morning Press Briefing From 28 Nov 2007


Briefing from the British Prime Minister's Spokesman on: Pakistan, Party Funding and Sudan. "I welcome the decision by President Musharraf to step down formally as Chief of Pakistan's Army".

Morning press briefing from 28 November 2007

Pakistan

The Prime Minister's Spokesman (PMS) began by reading some words from the Prime Minister in response to General Musharraf stepping down as Chief of the Army Staff:

"I welcome the decision by President Musharraf to step down formally as Chief of Pakistan's Army. This is an important part of the process that President Musharraf has told me he wants to take to rapidly restore constitutional order. We understand the threat to Pakistan's peace and security. But I have urged President Musharraf to use the normal democratic processes to respond. Meeting last week in Kampala Commonwealth leaders set out the conditions that must be fulfilled if Pakistan is to be restored to its rightful place in the Commonwealth. Most importantly, it is essential that preparations are now put in place for free and fair elections to be held in January, with a level playing field for all political parties."

Asked if there had been any direct contact between the Prime Minister and President Musharraf since CHOGM, the PMS replied that they spoke last Wednesday, and there was a further brief discussion following the CHOGM decision. Obviously there was regular contact at all levels with the Pakistan Government.

Asked what contact there had been since the weekend, the PMS replied that there was a brief discussion following the Commonwealth decision.

Party Funding

Asked when the Prime Minister knew that Jon Mendelsohn knew about David Abraham's covert donations, the PMS replied that this was a question about Labour Party funding, and was not for him.

Put that the Prime Minister spoke yesterday about unlawful acts that had been committed, and asked if he was satisfied that no Cabinet Ministers were aware of unlawful acts being committed, the PMS replied that again this was a question that was in the context of Labour Party funding. The Prime Minister did say yesterday that there was a Labour Party review of these matters, and he also said that he was sure the Electoral Commission would be looking into these matters.

Asked if the Prime Minister had any plans to meet with or speak to Harriet Harman or Jon Mendelsohn today, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister spoke to his Government colleagues on a regular basis as would be expected.

Asked if Jon Mendelsohn had security pass for No10, or a desk or a telephone in No10, the PMS replied that he did not know the answer to that.

Asked if the Police or the CPS had been in touch with Downing Street, the PMS replied that they had not as far as he was aware.

Put that the Prime Minister did not know until the Mail on Sunday contacted Government about David Abraham's covert donations, and asked if he was satisfied that the only other people related to the Government who knew were Peter Watt, Baroness Jay and Jon Mendelsohn, the PMS replied again that this was a matter about Labour Party funding, and there was a Labour Party inquiry under way looking at all of this to establish the facts.

Asked if it could be arranged for a Labour Party Spokesman to attend Lobby to answer these questions, the PMS replied that this was something the Chairman of Lobby may wish to take up with the Labour Party.

Asked if the Prime Minister was satisfied that the Labour Party itself and the Electoral Commission were equipped to carry out the kind of investigation that would clear up any doubts, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister spoke at length about this yesterday, he answered lots of questions about it, and he had nothing further to add.

Asked if the Prime Minister still had full confidence in Harriet Harman, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister did.

Asked to what extent the Prime Minister's normal daily business had been deflected by questions like these, the PMS replied that it was the nature of being Prime Minister that you had to deal with events as they arose, but he was also determined to ensure that he kept his focus on the long term changes necessary for the country. He gave examples of this in his speech to the CBI on Monday, and tomorrow he would be making a big speech on the Thames Gateway and the long term development and change that was happening there.

Sudan

Asked if there had been any progress on the Sudanese situation, the PMS replied that it was best to keep in touch with the Foreign Office for exact details of where we were. Consular officials were able to visit her on Monday, and he understood they would be visiting her again today. In addition Lord Malloch-Brown spoke to the Sudanese Ambassador yesterday.

Asked if the Prime Minister had been in touch personally, the PMS replied that at Ministerial level Lord Malloch-Brown had been in contact with the Sudanese Ambassador.

ENDS

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