Reuters: President George W. Bush said on Tuesday his administration was consulting with Britain on Iran’s seizure of 15 British sailors and marines but that there would be no swap of the Britons for Iranians held in Iraq. WASHINGTON, April 3 (Reuters) – President George W. Bush said on Tuesday his administration was consulting with Britain on Iran’s seizure of 15 British sailors and marines but that there would be no swap of the Britons for Iranians held in Iraq.
The Iraqi government is trying to secure the release of five Iranians detained by U.S. forces in northern Iraq in January, as the British government seeks freedom for the British military personnel seized by Iran March 20 on charges of being in Iranian waters.
Britain insists the sailors and marines were in Iraqi waters on a routine U.N. mission and Bush said he supports Britain’s effort to resolve the situation peacefully.
“The seizure of the sailors is indefensible by the Iranians,” Bush told reporters in the White House Rose Garden. “I support the (Tony) Blair government’s attempts to solve this issue peacefully so we’re in close consultation with the British government.
“I also strongly support the prime minister’s declaration that there should be no quid pro quos when it comes to the hostages,” Bush said.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack declined comment on Tuesday’s release of an Iranian diplomat who had been kidnapped in Iraq in February. He said the United States had nothing to do with the Iranian’s seizure, detention or release.
McCormack declined to comment on the status of the five Iranians held by U.S. forces in Iraq. Washington says they were detained because they were providing improvised explosives to Iraqi militants for use against U.S. troops and Iraqis.
Asked about reports that Iraq was pushing for the United States to release the five Iranians in Baghdad in the hope of encouraging Iran to free the 15 British sailors and Marines held by Iran, McCormack said the cases were not linked.
“We reject out of hand any attempt to link the two,” he said. “To do so only creates a set of incentives that would encourage more such behavior either by the Iranian government or others in unjustly seizing individuals.”