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Breakfast with Frost
Baroness Amos
Baroness Amos, foreign office minister
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: BARONESS AMOS, FOREIGN OFFICE MINISTER OCTOBER 20TH, 2002

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST: The aftermath of the bombing in Bali has dominated the news all week. It is believed that more than 30 Britons died in the attack and their families are now facing the ordeal of identifying their bodies and returning them home. The Foreign Office Minister Baroness Amos has apologised for the lack of co-ordination and distress they have experienced and she is in Bali, and she joins me right now. Baroness Amos, good morning.

BARONESS AMOS: Good morning.

DAVID FROST: Have you visited the site? How many of the people, the families, have you talked to? It must have been very, very trying.

BARONESS AMOS: It has been difficult but not nearly so difficult for me as it has been for the families. I visited the site on the first morning that I arrived here. I have talked to all the families here who have people who are either confirmed dead or are missing. And I've talked to them about how they're feeling, we have facilitated their visits to the site and we have also improved our co-ordination so we can give them a much better service.

DAVID FROST: And in fact as you talked to the people you heard the complaints about the way in which they felt they didn't have enough support from the Brits, from the consular officials and so on, and that's why you felt it was appropriate to apologise, yes?

BARONESS AMOS: I apologised because our co-ordination was not as it should have been and because that meant that we caused our families more distress than we should have done. They are looking to us to support them through this process and we have strengthened our operations on the ground and that service will be much better now.

DAVID FROST: And talking to people there, do you get an impression, do you have a feeling yourself of who did this thing?

BARONESS AMOS: That is very, very difficult. We know that there are people around the world who are terrorists and who don't care who they hurt and how they do it. The Indonesian authorities are taking this very seriously indeed. I've spoken to the foreign minister, it is clear that they have a strength and a determination to get to the bottom of this and that's what we all want.

DAVID FROST: Do you think it was - do the other people you talk to, do they think it was al-Qaeda?

BARONESS AMOS: There are lots of rumours flying around. I think our responsibility as a government is to share the information that we have with our partners around the world; to be absolutely vigilant and to give the Indonesian authorities, who are leading this investigation, the support that they have asked us for.

DAVID FROST: Tell me something. The row about, the concern about - and John Howard has got a committee looking into it - the fact that we ignored these warnings must be one thing that exercises all the bereaved there, but the fact that, as Iain Duncan Smith said, that this is not a political point that the US government warned its citizens as recently as last Thursday, that's two days before, to stay away from venues such as nightclubs in certain countries. Two days later, on the morning of the bombing, the American Embassy in Jakarta told its citizens in Indonesia to avoid places frequented by Westerners and so on. What went wrong? We were told the same thing the Australians were told, and the Americans, and we didn't do anything about it - what went wrong?

BARONESS AMOS: Well let me make this absolutely clear. We did not ignore warnings - and I think it is wrong to say that we did. Since the atrocities on September 11 last year, we have made a general statement in all of our travel advice about the possibilities of global terrorism. We then look at the specific countries that we are advising on, and the information that we have from a number of different sources, including intelligence information. The advisory for Indonesia was changed on the 27th August, to flag up more specifically the possibilities of threats from terrorism, and to alert our citizens to the fact that they needed to exercise caution in public places. We did not have information that was specific to Bali and that would have allowed us to say anything more than that. And if you look at the information that we, the Australians and the United States were giving out prior to the terrible, terrible events here last week, none of us made a specific reference to Bali, because we didn't have that information. We had a generalised reference to Bali with some other countries which was generic, it was not specific, and we could not use that information to make a specific reference in our travel advice. All that we would have wished, if we had had - can I just say because I think this is very important to say - the first thing that we would want to do is to protect our citizens. If we had specific information that led us to believe that this could have happened, we would have warned people immediately.

DAVID FROST: All right, well -

BARONESS AMOS: And it is irresponsible to suggest that the British Government would not do that.

DAVID FROST: Well the British Government failed to pass on at least three warnings. A CIA briefing that Bali was a target was passed to the Government two days before the bomb blast, but not made public. I think there's going to have to be an inquiry here like there is in Australia, don't you?

BARONESS AMOS: David that's not true. What I'm trying to say is that that is not true. We received the generalised information. We looked again at the advice that we were giving our citizens. There was a reference to the threat of terrorism. There was a reference for the need for our citizens in public places to be careful. The information that we received was not specific and if you look at the advice that we issued, that the Australians issued and that the Americans issued, prior to last weekend, none of us made a specific reference to Bali - because we did not have that information.

DAVID FROST: Thank you very much indeed. Much appreciated - we're about to lose the line so we'll say huge thanks to Baroness Amos over there. Thank you very much indeed.

INTERVIEW ENDS

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