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31 October afternoon government press briefing

Thursday 31 October afternoon government press briefing
[31 October 2002]


PRESS BRIEFING: 3.45PM THURSDAY 31 OCTOBER 2002


IRAQ

Asked who would judge whether Iraq was complying with the new UN Resolution were such a Resolution to be reached, the PMOS said that it would be for UNMOVIC and IAEA to report to the UN Security Council. Saddam Hussein was already in breach of a substantial number of UN Resolutions. The issue of what would happen were there to be a further breach of a fresh Resolution was just one question under active discussion. However, journalists shouldn't get too ahead of themselves at this point. Negotiations were still taking place at the UN and he didn't think it would be helpful to start getting into the detail of what was being discussed.

Asked if he would accept that the Prime Minister was devoting less attention to the issue because of the time it was taking to reach an agreement, the PMOS said no. This was an important priority for the Government and the Prime Minister continued to be heavily involved in it. He was simply pointing out that we couldn't move the process forward until this stage, i.e. securing a fresh Resolution, came to a conclusion. Questioned further, the PMOS said that we had clearly reached the endgame in negotiating a text. The Ambassadors of the P5 at the UN were constantly engaging with their partners. Sir Jeremy Greenstock was in constant contact with Jack Straw and Downing Street. Mr Straw had been speaking regularly to his colleagues on the P5 and he was also in close contact with the Prime Minister, as you would expect. Questioned about the draft text currently being discussed, the PMOS said that while gaps had clearly narrowed, we were not quite there yet in terms of agreeing a text which we could formally table. Nevertheless, we were making progress and we continued to hope that an agreement could be reached, as Jack Straw had told Cabinet this morning.

Questioned as to whether the Prime Minister had spoken to any world leaders about the UN Resolution on Iraq recently, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister hadn't spoken to anyone about the matter this week as far as he was aware. However, the subject had been raised with President Chirac during their bilateral at the European Council last week.

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