Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hague's top priority is Afghanistan

By Press Association reporter

New Foreign Secretary William Hague has said that getting a "grip" on Britain's military operations in Afghanistan would be his top priority on his first day in the job.

A national security council will be convened by the new coalition administration almost immediately to discuss the situation, Mr Hague indicated as he arrived at the Foreign Office.

"We are all concerned about the situation in Afghanistan and indeed one of the first things I will do when I go through this door is have a briefing on Afghanistan. Our new national security council will meet later today," he told Sky News on Wednesday morning.

"We have always said that on the first day of a new government we would get that national security council together so that decisions about foreign policy, defence policy, are properly integrated at the highest levels of government. It is our most urgent priority here in my work to make sure we have a grip on what is going on in Afghanistan.

"And I know that will consume a lot of our time and energy and effort. We have been fighting some political battles here but they are in a real battle out there."

Mr Hague also said that he was confident the newly-formed coalition with the Liberal Democrats could survive the two parties' contrasting approaches to the European Union.

It was "not difficult" in negotiations to secure agreement of a policy of opposing any further transfer of powers and ruling out joining the single currency, he said.

"All British government sometimes face difficulties over European policy but given the discussions we have had... we certainly do not start off with it as a difficulty and I think we will work well together in ensuring that remains the case," he said.

The Government would pursue an "active and activist" policy towards Brussels, he added.

Mr Hague also said the Government wanted a "solid but not slavish relationship" with the United States - saying the so-called special relationship remained of "huge importance". He added: "No doubt we will not agree on everything. But they remain, in intelligence matters, in nuclear matters, in international diplomacy, in what we are doing in Afghanistan, the indispensable partner of this country."

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