Saturday, March 31, 2007


The crew has been held captive for more than a week. Legal action is being taken against 15 Royal Navy personnel held captive by Iran for "entering Iranian waters", a senior Iranian diplomat has said.
Gholamreza Ansari, Iran's ambassador to Moscow, said "legal process" had started but denied reports which quoted him saying the group may face trial.
The UK government says the captives were seized in Iraqi waters and is demanding their "immediate" return.
Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett has sent a written response to Iran.
Iran's official IRNA news agency earlier carried a report saying the envoy had told Russian television that legal moves against the 15 had already started and that there was a possibility they could stand trial.
But the agency later quoted Mr Ansari saying the television channel had made a "translation mistake" when quoting him saying the group could face charges and a trial.
Britain denies Iran's claims that the UK crew was in its waters when seized on 23 March.
A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "Our position has not changed. We have made it clear that they were inside Iraqi waters and we want them returned immediately."

1 Crew boards merchant ship 1.7NM inside Iraqi waters
2 HMS Cornwall was south-east of this, and inside Iraqi waters
3 Iran tells UK that merchant ship was at a different point, still within Iraqi water
4 After UK points this out, Iran provides alternative position, now within Iranian waters.

Mrs Beckett said she had replied to a letter from the Iranian government, but no detail of the contents was given.
The Iranian letter had not suggested Tehran was looking for a solution to "this difficult situation" and the fact that it was a holiday period in Iran was "not too helpful", she added.
Speaking later at a European Union meeting in the German city of Bremen, Mrs Beckett stressed the British government wanted the situation resolved quickly.
"What we want is a way out of it - we want it peacefully and we want it as soon as possible.
"We would like to be told where our personnel are - we'd like to be given access to them, but we want it resolved."
She said she was "concerned" about claims by Mr Ansari that the British personnel could face legal action.
"I don't think it's helpful to Iran, I don't think it's helpful to our detainees - I think that is not the tone really that I would wish anyone to strike," she added.
Earlier, US state department spokesman Sean McCormack rejected suggestions that a swap could be made for five Iranians captured in Iraq by US forces in January.
The Iranians, believed to be members of the Revolutionary Guard, were taken in a raid in the city of Irbil, along with equipment which the Americans say shows clear Iranian links to networks supplying Iraqi insurgents with technology and weapons.
US officials have condemned Iran's actions over the 15 Navy personnel and publicly supported the UK.
Mr McCormack said: "The international community is not going to stand for the Iranian government trying to use this issue to distract the rest of the world from the situation in which Iran finds itself vis-a-vis its nuclear programme."
Prime Minister Tony Blair has criticised Iran for "parading" the UK crew on television in a way which would only "enhance people's sense of disgust".
Letter Sacri
1 Royal Navy crew stray 0.5km inside Iranian waters
2 Iran gives set of co-ordinates to back up their claims
3 According to seized GPS equipment, the Royal Navy crew had previously entered Iranian waters at several other points
4 Iran informs Britain of the position where the crew were seized, inside Iranian waters.

But a former Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, Said Rajai Khorasani, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme Mr Blair had been too "authoritative" in his approach.
He added: "He could have said for instance, 'Well, even if there is possibly a mistake, in the light of good relations between the two countries, I hope that you will facilitate their release.'
"I mean that's a more friendly - let's say phraseology - than dictating, you know, immediately and unconditionally, and so on and so forth."
In what appeared to be an edited broadcast on an Iranian channel on Friday, captured sailor Nathan Thomas Summers said: "I would like to apologise for entering your waters without permission."
He was shown alongside two colleagues, one of whom was Leading Seaman Faye Turney, from Shropshire, who had been broadcast apologising to Iran earlier in the week.
A letter, allegedly from LS Turney, was released on Friday in which she said she had been "sacrificed" to UK and US government policy.

They will have to be released by diplomatic means and I believe that this will happen
Neil Whittaker, Lancashire, UK
Send us your comments

European Union foreign ministers, meeting in Bremen, Germany, called for "the immediate and unconditional release" of the sailors and expressed "unconditional support" for Britain's position.
The BBC has been able to confirm the names of six of the 15 captured sailors and marines.
Along with LS Turney and Nathan Summers, who is from Cornwall, they are Paul Barton from Southport, Danny Masterton from Ayrshire, Joe Tindall from south London and Adam Sperry from Leicester.
The Britons, based on HMS Cornwall, were seized by Revolutionary Guards as they returned from searching a vessel in the northern Gulf.



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