Row over British sailors widens to include EU

1st April 2007, Comments 0 comments

2 April 2007, The row between Iran and Britain over the seizure of 15 British sailors widened this week to include the European Union after an EU condemnation of the incident drew a sharp response from Tehran. Besides the exchanges continuing between Tehran and London, further developments came in Bremen and Moscow - with the EU foreign ministers calling for the sailors' release and comments by Iran's ambassador to Russia in which he said he was mistakenly cited as saying the 15 sailors and marines could f

2 April 2007

The row between Iran and Britain over the seizure of 15 British sailors widened this week to include the European Union after an EU condemnation of the incident drew a sharp response from Tehran.

Besides the exchanges continuing between Tehran and London, further developments came in Bremen and Moscow - with the EU foreign ministers calling for the sailors' release and comments by Iran's ambassador to Russia in which he said he was mistakenly cited as saying the 15 sailors and marines could face trial.

In Bremen, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier as host of the EU foreign ministers meeting called for the immediate release of the 15 British navy personnel, saying the crisis must be solved before Tehran starts legal proceedings against the sailors.

"A solution has to be sought before things are brought to a trial and before the sailors are sentenced," Steinmeier told reporters.

"We are standing shoulder to shoulder with the United Kingdom," said Steinmeier.

The EU's renewed appeal came as aides to the bloc's chief diplomat Javier Solana held first contacts with the Iranian authorities on the crisis.

"I hope in the coming weeks to have positive news" on the detained sailors, Solana told reporters.

Direct telephone discussions between Solana and chief Iranian nuclear negotiator are expected to take place next week.

In Tehran, however, Iran's foreign ministry Saturday warned the EU to avoid "irresponsible reaction" over the detained British marines, the official news agency IRNA reported.

"The European Union foreign ministers must seriously avoid irresponsible and imprudent reactions over the bilateral dispute between Tehran and London," said the statement carried by the agency.

The foreign ministry further called on the EU to encourage the British government on finding a mutual solution to settle the dispute.

Meanwhile British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett told BBC television of London's hope to resolve the dispute.

"Things have gone a little quieter and we hope that this is a good sign," she was quoted while attending the EU meeting in Bremen. "What we want is a way out of this, we want it peacefully and we want it as soon as possible."

She added that London had continued "to express our willingness to engage in dialogue and discussion to come to a resolution of this issue."

Beckett confirmed that London had answered a diplomatic message from Tehran in which the Iranians had given their explanation of the events of March 23 when the 15 soldiers were seized.

According to BBC, the Iranian message no longer expressly demanded from London an apology over the incident.

The dispute took on an added twist Saturday when Iran's ambassador to Moscow said he had been mistakenly quoted in indicating that Iran might put the 15 on trial.

The ambassador, Gholam-Reza Ansari, sought in remarks carried by the official news agency IRNA to clarify just what he had told the Russian television channel Vesti-24 the day before.

"I only told the (Russian) television on Friday that the case of detention of British sailors has taken on a judicial form," said the ambassador.

"The TV network made a mistake in translating part of the interview concerning the arrested British servicemen and declared by mistake the possibility of their trial," he insisted.

Iran's state news agency IRNA had earlier quoted Ansari as telling to the Russian television Vesti-24 that the legal moves against the detained British sailors had begun and the captives may face trial if there was enough evidence to prove the charges against them.

Ansari was quoted as saying "They will be tried if there is enough evidence of guilt" - a remark which he later said was mistranslated.

The group of seven sailors and eight Royal Marines was seized from a British patrol boat in the Shatt al-Arab waterway on March 23, triggering the diplomatic row between Tehran and London.

DPA

Subject: German news

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