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Breakfast with Frost
Secretary for International Development, Baroness Amos
BBC Breakfast with Frost interview:

Baroness Amos International Development Secretary

18 May 2003

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

DAVID FROST: After weeks of speculation about her future, Clare Short resigned from the Cabinet last week. The Department for International Development may be one of the smallest departments in Whitehall but under Clare Short its profile and its budget were growing. Her place at the Cabinet table has been taken by Baroness Amos, previously a Foreign Office minister, and she joins us right now. Valerie, good morning to you.

BARONESS AMOS: Good morning.

DAVID FROST: Congratulations.


DAVID FROST: I suppose what we just touched on at the end there with Rageh Omar the situation in Iraq post-victory, but in the midst of looting and so on, that I suppose is top of your agenda, is it?

BARONESS AMOS: It's very much top of my agenda. We are working with our colleagues in the United States and others to try and stabilise the situation. The situation in Baghdad is particularly difficult because the security situation remains fragile. There are some 200 UN workers now back in Baghdad - back in Iraq, across the country, some 75 in Baghdad - and we've got members of the UK civil service who've been seconded to Ora, some 44 who are out there helping - one of them from the Department of International Development who will have more people going out there next week.

DAVID FROST: It does look, doesn't it, looking at it from a distance as though, maybe because of priorities or whatever, we didn't plan for the peace as well as we planned for the war.

BARONESS AMOS: That's actually not quite right. The UN would tell you that they're probably more prepared for this than for any other post-conflict situation. But the difficulty has been getting the security environment right. We have seen difficulties, for example, with securing hospitals, getting medical supplies in. I think we should remember that the scale of the humanitarian disaster that had been predicted, particularly with refugee flows, did not happen. What has been important is to get water, electricity back, and I think people sometimes forget that there are areas of the country like Basra, where water supplies and repairs had not been done over many years because this was an area that was opposed to the Saddam regime. So in parts of the country we've actually got things up and running to a pre-conflict situation, but that situation in itself was not good enough. But Baghdad remains a particular problem.

DAVID FROST: And what about the UN, obviously a part of the humanitarian efforts we've deliberately sidelined the UN and some people support that because of the problem they were earlier on - France and countries like that - but it's not going to have a vital role except in humanitarian aid really.

BARONESS AMOS: That's not quite right. There's the UN Security Council which is currently under discussion in New York, which sets out very clearly three different roles for the UN: a role in the humanitarian situation, a clear role in reconstruction, but also a role in the political process, in terms of helping the transition to the Iraqi Interim Authority. So three absolutely vital roles for the UN there.

DAVID FROST: But I mean Clare Short resigned because she felt that the UN was not having the role that she'd promised the world they would have.

BARONESS AMOS: Well Clare made a decision which was a decision for her. If you read the draft UN resolution which is currently being discussed in New York, it sets out a very clear role for the UN indeed.

DAVID FROST: Do you think that will be a - it won't be a leading role and it won't be a vital role and it won't be a commanding role - we're, for the next year, according - they say in the papers today, don't they, that there won't be an Iraqi government or anything like that for over a year - during that period the occupying powers, the people who risk their lives, the United States and the UK, we're going to be running Iraq, not the UN.

BARONESS AMOS: We've a vital role for a UN special co-ordinator who will help, not just in the humanitarian situation but also in devising that political process which will lead us to having an Iraqi government.

DAVID FROST: What are your other priorities?

BARONESS AMOS: Well my immediate priorities are, not just Iraq, but the G8. As minister for Africa I was working with colleagues across government but also with G8 colleagues on an Africa action plan, which was agreed at the G8 meeting last year. At the beginning of June, leaders will look at how far we have gone in implementing that plan. The UK has made its priorities absolutely clear, which is to work on conflict resolution in Africa, particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Sudan and helping to build the peace in Angola. Trade is absolutely vital, particularly in the run up to the discussions which will be held in Mexico around the World Trade Organisation Round and we want this very much to focus on helping developing countries.

DAVID FROST: And do you, do you think you'll manage to do as Clare Short did and get increased funding from the Treasury, as she did?

BARONESS AMOS: I, I very much hope so.

DAVID FROST: You could arrange it this morning, by the way.

BARONESS AMOS: I know, you've got Gordon on later. Clare did an absolutely excellent job. DFID is recognised internationally as an excellent development agency. We have a very clear mandate and focus which has been agreed in two white papers and in our International Development act. It's a part of what we do as government, which is recognised domestically and internationally, and I want to build on that.

DAVID FROST: Well thank you very much for being with us and we wish you well in your task, beginning with Iraq and lots more besides. Thank you very much for being with us this morning.


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