AFP: The defence ministry on Thursday rejected a report that Defence Secretary Des Browne misrepresented details of the seizure of 15 British troops by Iran last year.
LONDON (AFP) — The defence ministry on Thursday rejected a report that Defence Secretary Des Browne misrepresented details of the seizure of 15 British troops by Iran last year.
The Times newspaper, citing internal ministry documents, said the group of sailors and marines were in disputed maritime territory when they were captured last March, not in Iraqi waters as Browne told the House of Commons.
According to the paper — quoting documents obtained under freedom of information laws — the Britons were captured because the US-led coalition in Iraq had unilaterally designated a maritime border without informing Iran.
In a statement, the Ministry of Defence acknowledged that "the boundary between Iraqi and Iranian waters has long been disputed," but added that "this was not the basis for the dispute with Iran."
"The Secretary of State for Defence told parliament on 16 June 2007 that there was no doubt the incident took place in Iraqi waters. That statement was correct in every regard," the statement said.
A spokesman for the ministry told AFP that the co-ordinates where the sailors were captured "were well outside that disputed area" and the details about the disputed Iraq-Iran maritime boundary was included in the internal ministry documents only as "an important point of background."
He said that the ministry had written to The Times to complain about the report.
The 15 British sailors and marines were seized on March 23 near the Shatt al-Arab waterway which divides Iran and Iraq, and were released nearly two weeks later.
Last June, a report by the former head of the Royal Marines, Rob Fulton, found the capture was down to no individual human error, but a series of shortcomings.