Thursday, June 24, 2010

William Hague conducts Q&A on Twitter

Britain's Foreign Seceretary conducted a Q&A session on the micro-blogging website Twitter on Thursday and said he hoped to engage with the public again via the social networking site. "I have enjoyed the frank questions and the chance to respond," William Hague said at the end of more than hour of responding to questions posed to him about his current visit to Pakistan. "I hope to do this again soon," he added.

He admitted that it was "challenging to fit everything into 140 characters!" but said many questions had raised some interesting points. Arriving in Pakistan on Wednesday 23rd June, the Foreign Secretary said he was due to meet with the Pakistani PM Yousuf Raza Gilani as well as his Foreign Minister during his 3 day visit [APP]. It was "important to build a long-term partnership between our nations," he said on a Twitter post. In Karachi he met with business leaders and visited the Stock Exchange. "Commerce and trade are crucial for the future of Pakistan," Hague proclaimed in a tweet sent on Thursday. 

Many asked Britain's Foreign Secretary about the continuing conflict in Afghanistan and the possibility it would only increase the terror threat. "Will the continuing Afghan war create 100s of potential Trafalgar Square bombers, in the mould of the Times Square bomber?" one Twitter user asked. Hague insisted that the continued military action was necessary. "Troops and civilians are working with Afghan govt to stop this happening in future, safeguarding security for whole region," he said in response.

Asked about the opium production in Afghanistan, William Hague said, "[the] UK supports Afghan Drug Control Strategy. Includes law enforcement action, capacity building, developing alternative livelihoods."

Another Twitter user asked how fighting a war in Afghanistan was protecting residents in the UK and claimed evidence suggested the opposite was true. Again, Britain's Foreign Secretary said that the war was necessary. "If int'l forces left now, threat to region would rise; Taliban could again take control in some areas and al Qaeda would return," Hague said.

Some were evidently concerned at Pakistan having reportedly signed a civil nuclear deal with China and asked William Hague what the UK's position was with regards to the deal. "[We are] aware of reports suggesting that China and Pakistan may be considering renewed civil nuclear cooperation," Hague said, "We have not seen details of any potential arrangement and urge all Nuclear Suppliers Group member states to abide by the relevant guidelines."

While answers were brief, it was interesting to see Britain's Foreign Secretary engaging with people through the Internet directly. Not all MPs use social media, but Twitter is fast becoming a forum through which politicians are helping put democracy into action. While some feeds are from aids, such as President Obama, others are posting the tweets themselves. So far William Hague has 18,333 followers, not as high as Barack Obama's 4,353,240, but significant for a British politician of a newly formed government.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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