[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 December, 2004, 16:56 GMT
Reporter's log: Blair in Iraq
Travelling with Tony Blair to Iraq, the BBC's James Landale has the latest on the prime minister's surprise visit.

21 December

BASRA :: 1515 GMT
The amount of security surrounding the prime minister on this trip is absolutely phenomenal.

Tony Blair in Iraq
The trip is marked by unprecedented security
I've been on a fair few of these tours and the security is by far the tightest that I have ever seen.

When we got to Baghdad this morning, we weren't even allowed to report until a few moments before the prime minister stood up to speak at the press conference.

Effectively an almost 24-hour news blackout - that is unheard of.


Flying into Baghdad in a military jet is not for the fainthearted.

The flight master - a sort of airborne Sergeant Major -had warned us that this was what he called an "operational flight".

And that meant the landing and take-off at Baghdad would be "tactical".

In the air we discovered what this meant - a steep dive or climb, weaving in and out of the clouds for safety.

It required a tight grip and steady stomach. For those reporters unable to hold back, there were stout Nato-issue sick bags.

Who can say now that the old alliance has no role to play in the world these days?

20 December

MID-AIR:: 2100 GMT

There is nothing journalists hate more than being caught in a news blackout. They know so much but cannot report a sausage.

It goes against the grain for people whose lives are all about telling stories not keeping secrets.

We content ourselves in engaging with surreal banter with Number 10 officials.

We all know we are going to Baghdad. But they can't say so, and so we don't ask.

Instead as we struggle to get information so we can plan ahead, we ask about the PM's trip to Blackpool.

"If the prime minister were going to Blackpool what time of day might he be going there?

"And when will we be able to file from Blackpool once we've got there?".

And most bizarre of all: "When was the last time a serving British prime minister visited Blackpool?"


So this is how it works when the prime minister goes to the Middle East these days.

We all get on a plane at Heathrow but we do not know where we are going. We think we may be going to Jordan but officially no one will say.

We think we may then be going onto Iraq, but even if we did know that for certain we couldn't report it.

What we have been told is that even when we get to where we are going we will not be able to report that until when we are leaving.

Welcome to the security-conscious twilight zone that is a prime ministerial trip into the heart of the war on terror.


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific