Reuters: A senior Iranian official said on Wednesday Britain was taking “appropriate action” to end the row over Tehran’s detention of 15 British military personnel, emphasizing a softer diplomatic approach to the crisis. By Parisa Hafezi
TEHRAN (Reuters) – A senior Iranian official said on Wednesday Britain was taking “appropriate action” to end the row over Tehran’s detention of 15 British military personnel, emphasizing a softer diplomatic approach to the crisis.
Britain said it was awaiting a formal response from Tehran to a proposal for direct bilateral talks to resolve the 13-day-old stand-off, and government officials reiterated London’s desire for an early resolution.
The row erupted when Iranian Revolutionary Guards seized 15 sailors and marines in the northern Gulf, where the British navy has been searching shipping in an effort to prevent smuggling into Iraq.
The dispute centers on where the Britons were when they were seized. Britain says they were in Iraqi waters on a routine U.N. mission. Tehran says they were in its waters.
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was due to hold a news conference on Wednesday in which he is expected to talk about the 14 men and a woman, who were detained on March 23. Iran state television said he would “explain Iran’s view”.
A statement for Prime Minister Tony Blair’s office late on Tuesday said Blair was “committed to resolving this by diplomatic means” and believed “that both sides share a desire for an early resolution of this issue through direct talks.”
“We are waiting for a response,” a foreign office spokeswoman said on Wednesday.
The crisis has developed at a time when Iran is also embroiled in a row over its nuclear ambitions. The West says Iran wants atomic bombs but Tehran denies this.
Iran’s parliament speaker Gholamali Haddadadel, who wields political influence and is related by marriage to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, welcomed Britain’s commitment to diplomacy.
“The British are trying to solve the issue of their arrested soldiers with negotiations and this is appropriate action,” he was quoted as saying on the state broadcaster’s Web site.
But he said: “The British should agree to their mistake and change their behavior of before.”
British officials said David Treisman, a foreign office minister, had talks late on Tuesday with Iran’s ambassador in London — their eighth meeting since the capture of the sailors.
Iran said on Tuesday the dispute could be resolved soon if London continued its “changed behavior” and accepted that its sailors had entered Iranian waters illegally.
Under the Islamic Republic’s system of clerical rule, Iranian policy is ultimately decided by Khamenei.
But analysts say he tends to take decisions by consensus so rival factions have the chance to influence the direction of policy.
Hardliners, like the Revolutionary Guards, have relished the chance to flex their muscles against the West particularly when five Iranians, who Iran says are diplomats but Washington says are linked to the Guards, are detained in Iraq, analysts say.
An Iranian representative is due to meet the five Iranians, Iran’s official IRNA news agency said on Wednesday. It did not say when any meeting would take place.