Wednesday, 4 April 2007

A 'present' to the UK: British sailors to be freed

I've been reading that the situation between Iran and the UK, which had seemed to have spiked, was calming down and the two countries were negotiating. Iran announced it would not put the soldiers on trial, even after many riots by Iranians for the sailors to be put on trial. Much drama has come to life over this series of opposing events. 15 naval crew members of the British military were detained by Iran on 23 March.

It looks like diplomacy worked. Imagine how horribly bad this could have turned out if the US or UK resorted to military force against Iran. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the sailors, though they 'invaded' Iranian waters, are free to go, consider it a 'present to the British people'. He made the seemingly benevolent comment in a patronizing ire.

Ahmadinejad is the hardline president of Iran, a controversial one at hope and abroad for tempting sanctions on Iran and challenging the international community by continuing Iran's nuclear weapons program. Remember he is not the ultimate power figure, because Iran is a semi-theocracy there are many influential religious figures.

BBC News:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says 15 British naval personnel captured in the Gulf are free to leave.
He repeated allegations that the Britons were captured in Iranian waters, and awarded medals to the Iranian commanders responsible for detaining them.

It was all part of the build up to his extraordinary theatrical gesture, says the BBC's diplomatic correspondent James Robbins.

"We have every right to put these people on trial," Mr Ahmadinejad asserted.

"But I want to give them as a present to the British people to say they are all free."

"I'm asking Mr Blair to not put these 15 personnel on trial because they admitted they came to Iranian territorial water," he added, referring to taped "confessions" made by the British sailors and marines.

Britain says the confessions were extracted under duress.

"I ask Mr Blair: Instead of occupying the other countries, I ask Mr Blair to think about the justice, to think about the truth and work for the British people not for himself."

"Unfortunately the British government was not even brave enough to tell their people the truth, that it made a mistake," Mr Ahmadinejad added.

As you can see, each side had its own view of the events, albeit confusing ones.

1 Crew boards merchant ship 1.7NM inside Iraqi waters
2 HMS Cornwall was south-east of this, and inside Iraqi waters
3 Iran tells UK that merchant ship was at a different point, still within Iraqi waters
4 After UK points this out, Iran provides alternative position, now within Iranian waters

1 Royal Navy crew stray 0.5km inside Iranian waters
2 Iran gives set of co-ordinates to back up their claims
3 According to seized GPS equipment, the Royal Navy crew had previously entered Iranian waters at several other points
4 Iran informs Britain of the position where the crew were seized, inside Iranian waters

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