AFP: The United States on Friday condemned as “unfortunate and extremely disappointing” any mistreatment by Iran of British naval personnel held captive by Tehran for nearly two weeks. by Olivier Knox
CRAWFORD, Texas, April 6, 2007 (AFP) – The United States on Friday condemned as “unfortunate and extremely disappointing” any mistreatment by Iran of British naval personnel held captive by Tehran for nearly two weeks.
“What the sailors said this morning is unfortunate and extremely disappointing if they were treated inappropriately in any way,” national security spokesman Gordon Johndroe told reporters.
“If what they described is accurate, and I have no reason to believe it is not, if what they described is accurate then that would not seem to be appropriate behavior and action,” said Johndroe.
The 15 British sailors and marines held by Iran told Friday how they were stripped, blindfolded and handcuffed as part of “psychological” intimidation during their detention.
A day after their return to Britain, the group said they feared for their lives if they resisted and were threatened with seven years in jail if they did not confess to being in Iranian waters.
“The British government will be undertaking a full investigation of the entire incident,” Johndroe said as US President George W. Bush prepared to celebrate Easter on his Texas ranch.
The spokesman declined to comment directly on comments by the US chief of Naval Operations, US Admiral Michael Mullen, who said Thursday that US military personnel would have fought the Iranians rather than be taken captive.
“My expectation is that American sailors are never seized in a situation like that,” Mullen told CNN television.
“Individuals and units are guided by the right of self-defense, they don’t have to ask permission to take action to protect themselves,” he said. “They go into operations like this, and missions like this, with that understanding.”
Asked whether those comments reflected standing orders to US personnel operating in the Gulf, Johndroe referred questions about the rules of engagement to the Pentagon.
But “I would just say, in general, as President Bush has said, we are not seeking a confrontation with the Iranians,” Johndroe told reporters.
“We and the rest of the international community are seeking their compliance with UN Security Council resolutions” calling for a freeze of Iran’s uranium enrichment and reprocessing, the spokesman said.
“That is the multilateral diplomatic approach that we are taking right now,” he said.
On Thursday, Johndroe warned Iran over its nuclear activities, saying: “We’d be hopeful to not have to go back to the UN Security Council for an additional sanction regime.”
And US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack accused Iran of using “hostage-taking as a tool of its international diplomacy.”