UK PMOs Statements On Kenya Bombing
PRESS BRIEFING: 11AM FRIDAY 29 NOVEMBER 2002
KENYA ATTACK/MIDDLE EAST
Asked why the UK hadn't been warned about potential attacks in Kenya when we were supposed to be sharing intelligence information with Australia who had, according to reports, warned its citizens of a possible threat, the PMOS said that we continued to keep our travel advice under constant review. As the Prime Minister had said in his speech to the Lord Mayor's Banquet, the Government would take action where there was information relating to a specific threat. That action could take many different forms, such as the issuing of alerts or taking pre-emptive action against individuals. We remained in constant touch with our intelligence partners about threats to our interests and those of our citizens. We were aware of what the Australian Foreign Minister had said regarding the attacks in Kenya and we would continue to remain in very close contact with the Australian authorities about ongoing threats.
Pressed repeatedly as to whether the intelligence information which had been made available to the Australians had been shared with the UK, the PMOS said that of course we shared information about threats with the Australians. That went without saying. However, he was not going to get into detail about all the intelligence material which crossed the desks of intelligence officers. Our travel guidance for people travelling to Kenya had contained generic advice relating to Kenya stating that UK nationals should be aware of indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets in public places, including tourist sites. Asked if he would agree that the Australians appeared to be 'windier' about issuing warnings than we were, the PMOS said that he had very little more to add to what he had already said. We continued to keep our travel advice under constant review. The Prime Minister had set out very clearly in his speech to the Lord Mayor's Banquet the challenges facing Governments in relation to the ongoing threat from international terrorism. We were fully aware of what they were and would continue to respond accordingly.
Asked if he was confirming or denying the fact that we had received intelligence about a potential terrorist attack in Kenya, the PMOS said that it had never been our policy to comment on specific intelligence, and he was not going to start doing so now. Asked if this was a denial, the PMOS said that it was what it was. Put to him that it was better for the information to be 'beaten out of him now' rather than over the weekend as had happened following the attacks in Bali, the PMOS said that intelligence issues were complex. We would respond to questions in the way we thought was appropriate. Pressed repeatedly as to whether the Australians had passed on the information they had received about Kenya to the UK authorities, the PMOS repeated that we remained in close contact with the Australians. He had nothing further to add on this matter.
Asked if it was time for a review of the way travel advice was issued to tourists in the light of the attacks in Bali and Kenya, the PMOS said that the Government would continue to do whatever it had to do and would calibrate any response it had to make, mindful, as always, of the need to act as appropriate and not to do the terrorists' job for them. Asked whether the FCO's guidance relating to travel to Kenya had changed since the attacks yesterday, the PMOS said no.
Asked if the Government agreed with Israel's analysis of the attacks - that Al Qaida was to blame, the PMOS said that investigations were still ongoing, but he was not disputing it. Asked about dealing with Al Qaida and Iraq, the PMOS said that, as the Prime Minister had reiterated many times in the past, the threat from global terrorism had not gone away. Fanatics continued to think nothing of killing themselves and as many other people as possible as the same time. Equally, we had to confront the threat from Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) held by unstable states, such as Iraq. The two were not mutually exclusive. Both were threats which had to be countered, albeit in different ways. Asked if we would accept the idea that global terrorism and WMD were connected to the issue of Israel, the PMOS said we acknowledged Israel's deep concern that its citizens were being targeted in this way and their desire for justice. Equally, it was important for people to recognise that the world was a dangerous place and that global terrorism was just as much a threat to other countries as it was to Israel and the US, for example. As John Reid had underlined in his press briefing yesterday, we remained committed to doing what we could to try to move the Middle East Peace Process forward. Everyone recognised that the vision set out by President Bush - of an Israel secure within its own borders and a viable Palestinian state - was the way forward. Obviously the forthcoming elections in the region were a factor at the moment. However, that did not mean that people were not focussing on this important issue. They were - not least the Prime Minister. Asked if he was urging Israel to be cautious in laying the blame for the attacks in Kenya on Al Qaida in light of what he had said, the PMOS said no. He was not preaching to Israel at all. He was simply stating a fact. Asked whether a conference on the Middle East Peace Process might take place in London before Christmas, the PMOS said that there was nothing new to flag up at this stage.
Asked if any thought was being given to the provision of additional security around airports following the missile attack on an Israeli plane yesterday, the PMOS said it went without saying that security arrangements were reviewed on a regular basis. Any adjustments that had to be made would be made as necessary.
Asked to verify today's report in the Times which suggested that the Syrian President would be visiting Downing Street, the PMOS said that if we had anything to say about any visitors, we would do so at the appropriate time.