Daily archives: November 29, 2005

Straw plans to change rules on diplomats memoirs

Moves by the FCO to stall on the clearance of Craig Murray’s book may be explained by news today that Jack Straw is planning to change the rules governing diplomats’ memoirs. These will be intended to better protect secrets within government and prevent further embaressments. So if they stall long enough they may then be able to block most of this book and any others to follow…

By Nigel Morris in The Independent

Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, has admitted that it was only through an internet advertisement that he discovered Sir Christopher Meyer was preparing to publish his memoirs.

Sir Christopher’s colourful account of his time as ambassador to Washington has embarrassed ministers, who have accused him of breaking the trust between civil servants and politicians. They have called for him to resign as chairman of the Press Complaints Commission.

Mr Straw reopened the war of words with Sir Christopher last night by announcing new controls on diplomats writing books and accusing him of keeping the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in the dark over his plans to publish DC Confidential.

The Foreign Secretary said: “There was no prior consultation by the author with the FCO before he entered into a commitment with a publisher and began writing. Following the appearance of a trailer for the book on the Amazon website in May, Sir Christopher was contacted by the FCO, reminded of the publication rules and repeatedly asked to submit his text to the department when completed.”

In a Commons written answer, Mr Straw said the book was only submitted to the Government for approval on 7 October, five weeks before its publication. Mr Straw said changes were not demanded in the text because of the “high threshold” required to demonstrate that Diplomatic Service regulations had been broken.

Mr Straw said the case suggested that the current rules, which depended on “norms of conduct and behaviour rather than laws”, were not effective. He said he planned to change the rules governing diplomats’ memoirs to ensure they better protected confidences within government.

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Blast from the past

Colonel Tim Spicer, OBE, is back in the news with some disturbing video of his employees tail gunning civillian cars in Baghdad. Spicer is involved in running Aegis – Specialist Risk Management, one of the many private companies making a killing in the chaos of post-invasion Iraq. But this business not new to the Colonel. A brief CV does indeed indicate a well connencted and travelled person:

1. “Executive Outcomes” (Angola, + allegedly DRC – Tim worked alongside Simon Mann, later jailed for the Equatorial Guinea Coup attempt which also implicated Mark Thatcher) – to 1997

2. “Sandline” (Sierra Leone, Papua New Guinea) – to 1999

3. “Crisis Risk Management” (?) – to 2000

4. “Strategic Consulting International” (allegedly counterinsurgency for the Nepalese government) – to 2001

5. “Trident Maritime” (counterinsurgency in Sri Lanka) – to 2002

6. “Aegis” (Iraq)

Craig Murray came across him before, back in the days of Sierra Leone as this article from 1998 expains.

Jack Straw must also be familiar with Colonel Spicer as he was instrumental in attempts to legalise private mecenary companies back in 2002.

“In developed countries, the private sector is becoming increasingly involved in military and security activity,” Mr Straw said in a foreword to the green paper. “It is British government policy… to outsource certain tasks that in earlier days would have been undertaken by the armed forces.” He added: “Today’s world is a far cry from the 1960s when private military activity usually meant mercenaries of the rather unsavoury kind involved in post-colonial or neo-colonial conflicts”.

At the time of the green paper Menzies Campbell, Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman said “This is an area where we need transparency, control and parliamentary scrutiny”.


For a full narative of events go here

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Questions in Parliament on exemptions and violations of Uzbek travel ban

From Hansards on the 24th November.

Mr. Hands: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the exemption of Islam Karimov and his family from the list of Uzbek officials banned from travelling to the European Union. [30702]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: We have not ruled out adding further names to the list of those subject to the EU’s visa ban. When adopting the measures on 3 October, the EU recognised the need to maintain contacts with Uzbekistan. Inclusion of the President on

the list would reduce prospects of continued dialogue. The measures introduced by the EU will be reviewed in the light of developments in Uzbekistan.

Mr. Hands: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the effectiveness of the EU travel ban on Uzbek officials; and what assessment he has made of the implications for the ban of Uzbek Interior Minister Almatov’s presence in Germany. [30869]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The measures announced by the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 3 October in relation to Uzbekistan came into force on 14 November. They clearly demonstrate the profound concern of the European Union (EU) about the situation in Uzbekistan and the EU’s strong condemnation of the refusal of the Uzbek authorities to allow an independent international inquiry into the events in Andizhan in May.

The EU travel ban stands. Almatov’s visa was issued before the travel ban came into effect. The travel ban allows for exemptions in cases of urgent humanitarian need. The German authorities checked that the medical case for the visa was urgent before deciding to issue.

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