AP: Britain said it was freezing talks on all other issues with Iran until it freed 15 Royal Navy crew members seized last week, and the British military released what it said was proof its boats were within Iraqi territorial waters when they were seized. Associated Press
By DAVID STRINGER
Associated Press Writer
LONDON (AP) – Britain said it was freezing talks on all other issues with Iran until it freed 15 Royal Navy crew members seized last week, and the British military released what it said was proof its boats were within Iraqi territorial waters when they were seized.
Iran’s foreign minister said meanwhile a female British sailor held captive by Iran may be released later Wednesday or on Thursday, a Turkish TV station reported.
“The woman soldier is free either today or tomorrow,” CNN-Turk television quoted Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki as saying on the sidelines of an Arab summit meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
On Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said the woman, identified as sailor Faye Turney, 26, had been given privacy.
Britain’s military said its vessels were 1.7 nautical miles inside Iraqi waters when Iran seized the sailors and marines on Friday.
Vice Adm. Charles Style told reporters that the Iranians had provided a position on Sunday – a location that he said was in Iraqi waters. By Tuesday, Iranian officials had given a revised position 2 miles east, placing the British inside Iranian waters – a claim he said was not verified by global positioning system coordinates.
“It is hard to understand a legitimate reason for this change of coordinates,” Style said.
Style gave the satellite coordinates of the British crew as 29 degrees 50.36 minutes north latitude and 048 degrees 43.08 minutes east longitude, and said it had been confirmed by an Indian-flagged merchant ship boarded by the sailors and marines.
Prime Minister Tony Blair told the House of Commons that “there was no justification whatever … for their detention, it was completely unacceptable, wrong and illegal.”
“We had hoped to see their immediate release; this has not happened. It is now time to ratchet up the diplomatic and international pressure in order to make sure the Iranian government understands its total isolation on this issue,” Blair said.
British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said Britain had frozen bilateral talks with Iran on all other issues until Tehran frees the crew.
“No one should be in any doubt about the seriousness with which we regard these events,” Beckett told lawmakers.
Blair said he believed the crew acted sensibly in not putting up fight after being confronted by six Iranian vessels.
“If they had engaged in military combat at that stage, there would have undoubtedly been severe loss of life. I think they took the right decision and did what was entirely sensible,” Blair said.
Britain and the United States have said the crew was intercepted after completing a search of a civilian vessel in the Iraqi part of the Shatt al-Arab waterway, where the border between Iran and Iraq has been disputed for centuries.
Iran has said the 15 were being treated well, but refused to say where they were being held, or rule out the possibility that they could be brought to trial for allegedly entering Iranian waters.
The Iranian Embassy statement said: “We are confident that Iranian and British governments are capable of resolving this security case through their close contacts and cooperation.”
In Tehran, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said the case was following normal procedures, holding out the possibility that the Britons could be brought to trial.
He said the Britons were being treated well and that the only woman among the sailors, 26-year-old Faye Turney, had been given privacy.
“They are in completely good health. Rest assured that they have been treated with humanitarian and moral behavior,” Hosseini told The Associated Press.
In talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, Beckett demanded that British diplomats be allowed to meet with the crew to make their own assessment.