Reuters: Defence Secretary Des Browne will attempt on Monday to defuse a row over the selling of stories by British sailors released by Iran after being held hostage. LONDON (Reuters) – Defence Secretary Des Browne will attempt on Monday to defuse a row over the selling of stories by British sailors released by Iran after being held hostage.
Browne is due to make a statement to MPs in the Commons, with Conservatives saying he should resign if he loses the confidence of parliament and the military.
Home Secretary John Reid on Sunday praised Browne for admitting that it had been a mistake to allow the sailors to sell their stories to newspapers.
Prime Minister Tony Blair has rejected calls for officials to be sacked, saying that Navy chiefs were only trying to manage media hype when they agreed to let the sailors accept payment.
Browne reversed that decision amid widespread criticism after the publication of interviews with two of the released sailors.
Political opponents said the decision to allow service members to profit from their time in Iran handed a propaganda coup to Britain’s enemies and embarrassed serving troops.
An online petition submitted to Blair’s Downing Street Web site calling for the dismissal of the “person responsible” for allowing the stories to be sold has attracted 4,500 signatures.
Media reports said Browne would announce a review of the regulations about military personnel giving media interviews.
He is also expected to give an update on an inquiry into the circumstances of the sailors’ arrest by Iranian forces.
The 14 servicemen and one woman were held for 13 days after being seized in the northern Gulf near the sea border between Iran and Iraq.
Britain says they were in Iraqi territory, but Iran said they were in its waters and showed televised interviews in which the sailors “confessed” to entering Iranian territory.