Joint Press Conference with Tony Blair U.K. Prime Minister and Jalal Talabani President of Iraq (Excerpts)

October 6, 2005

Related Country: 

  • Iraq

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani visited Downing Street for talks.

His meeting with Tony Blair came ahead of next week's referendum on a new Iraqi constitution, which will be followed by elections due in December.

Tony Blair:

Good Afternoon everyone. First of all can I extend a very warm welcome to President Talabani here in Downing Street. We were just saying that the first time we met together here was actually in December 2002.

Jalal Talabani:

I asked you to come back.

Tony Blair:

You asked us to come back, and we did. And I just want to say a few words before asking the President to say a few words, and then take some questions.

. . .

Question and answer session

Question:

Prime Minister, some very serious allegations have been made, implicating Iran, but they were made behind closed doors and were made anonymously. Are you prepared to publicly back those accusations, implicating Iran in the murder of British soldiers? And to you Mr President, the same question really, do you believe Iran is implicated in the murder of British troops and if so why, why are they doing this?

Tony Blair:

First of all let me just dispose of one part of one conspiracy theory. There is nothing premeditated about this. There has been, and I will tell you exactly what I know about this situation because at some point in time we were going to have to have this discussion, we might as well have it now. But let me just tell you exactly what I know. What is clear is that there have been new explosive devices used, not just against British troops but elsewhere in Iraq. The particular nature of those devices lead us either to Iranian elements or to Hezbollah, because they are similar to the devices used by Hezbollah that is funded and supported by Iran. However we cannot be sure of this at the present time. But I want to make it very, very clear, and this has been made clear to the Iranian government and I will make it clear again, the British forces are in Iraq under a United Nations mandate today. We are there with the support of the United Nations-backed Iraqi government.

There is no justification for Iran or any other country interfering in Iraq, neither will we be subject to any intimidation in raising the necessary and right issues to do with the nuclear weapons obligations of Iran under the Atomic Energy Agency Treaty. So I am telling you exactly what I know, there are issues there, it is a discussion that has been going on for the past few months because of our concern at the situation, we cannot be sure, I am just telling you what we know. What we know is that the devices are of a similar nature to those used by Hezbollah and there are certain pieces of information that lead us back to Iran, but I am not saying any more than that, we cannot be sure of this, but I hope you have got from what I have said a very clear message on this.

Jalal Talabani:

We are very much concerned and worried about the news we have about the device which was discovered. And ... talked to some Iranian brothers, they denied it, they say we are not doing anything against Iraqi people or against multinational forces because we want to see Iraq stable and we are not ready to bring our differences with the United States to inside Iraq. We will go into more investigations to know what is the real source of the terrorist actions which were against the British forces in the south.

. . .

Question:

I hear what you say about what you say about the Iranians being premeditated, but inevitably the American rhetoric on Iran has been much harder than the British and much more public in the past. Inevitably there are going to be those who say you have been leant on by the White House.

Tony Blair:

Leant on by the White House, how do you mean?

Question:

Well that the Americans would like you to speak in a much more bellicose way about the Iranians, the same as they have.

Tony Blair:

I don't think that is true at all actually. You know the European negotiation with Iran over the nuclear weapons capability has been strongly supported by America. Look, I am just being open with you. What has happened is there has been a discussion over this, because obviously we have been checking what devices are being used against British forces, and because of the particular nature of this there are links back to Iran, we can't be sure of it, but obviously I have been concerned about this myself for some time, but we want to be sure. But what people have got to know is that is has nothing to do with anyone else, it is to do with the British interest, what Iran has got to know is that this is a UN-backed mission in Iraq now. British troops, American troops, the multinational force are there with the support of the United Nations and the support of the first Iraqi government to come out of democratic elections.

Now that is the case and therefore there is no justification for any country, Iran or any other country in the region, interfering or encouraging terrorism against our forces there. And if it is also the case that they are trying to make some point about the negotiation over the nuclear weapons issue in respect of Iran, as I said earlier, we are not going to be intimidated on that. Now as the President rightly said, the Iranians deny all this completely, as you know, I think they have been out denying it today. Obviously we will continue our investigation on it. But as I said to you, I don't think it is harmful in a sense for this issue to be discussed now, but I have to say to you that I don't think anybody knew it was going to be raised in this way. Having said that, as I say, there is no particular harm in having the discussion.

Question:

I have a question for you Prime Minister. Putting aside the allegation that Iran is behind the attacks on British troops in southern Iraq, how implicated politically speaking Iran is in Iraq, bearing in mind what the Saudi Foreign Minister said about this.

Tony Blair:

Remind me of that again.

Question:

He just said that Iran is very heavily implicated in Iraq and they should stop doing so. A question for you Mr President ...(not interpreted)

. . .

Tony Blair:

. . .

Now as I say I am not going to say any more about the Iranian situation than I have said already, and again I would just emphasise to you what happened yesterday I think is perfectly understandable because people feel very strongly about this, who are living their lives in Iraq and are worried about security there. There is nothing premeditated about raising it, but this is the fact, this is what we are up against. And my point is that when you are up against these types of forces that are trying to impose their will, against the will of the Iraqi people, we don't fold up and go away, we don't run away from that situation, we stand up to it and do so as long as the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government want us to. And they are the people in the end who will say look, this is the moment now, we can handle our own security, you can leave, and then we do because there will be the sovereign government, they are now, after the December elections if everything goes through and it works out right, there will be a sovereign democratically elected government in Iraq for the first time. What possible justification is there for anyone, outside or inside Iraq, interfering with that process. And then we are there serving in that situation, they tell us what to do and when to go, and if they tell us to go, we go. If they want us to stay to help the last elements of the build-up of the Iraqi forces be put in place, then we stay for that purpose. But that is why this is a common battle, the international community is one battle. We were divided over the original decision to remove Saddam, that is true, that is history, but the future is one in which we shouldn't be divided, we should be on the same side.

. . .