» Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Asked if there would be a further statement on the situation regarding the kidnapped naval personnel, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) replied that there would not be another statement.

Asked if we were any closer to knowing if and when the female prisoner would be released, and would they show footage, the PMOS said that our priority in this was not only to get consular access, but also, to get all 15 personnel released. That remained out position. The PMOS said that he was not going to speculate on any suggestions of anything else. The Prime Minister and the MOD had set out the factual position, and it was on that factual position that we believed Iran should comply with international law and release the prisoners.

Asked if there had been any formal response from Iran to the various positions that had been outlined, the PMOS replied that he was not aware of any formal response. The Admiral had briefed on what our response had been to their response on the co-ordinates, but that had happened over the weekend, rather than today.

Asked if we could say whether we had confirmation on the woman prisoner being released, the PMOS said he could not, because it was based on reports from Tehran. What mattered was that all 15 personnel were released.

Put that we would not want them put on television, the PMOS said that people were aware that the usual conventions had clear rules about putting people in this situation on public display. People should not speculate about hypotheticals; rather, we had to deal with the reality. That reality was that these personnel were carrying out a UN mandate in Iraqi waters and they should not have been detained.

Asked if there had been any movement from the UN Secretary General or the UN Secretariat, given that this might have been a threat to the UN mandate, the PMOS replied that he was not aware of any words at this point from the UN. However, he drew journalists’ attention to Chancellor Merkel’s unequivocal comments, both as Chancellor Merkel and as EU President, that showed the very strong backing that we were getting from the EU on this issue. This backing had been apparent since the weekend.

Asked why there were not UN words yet, the PMOS said that that was a matter for the UN.

Put that was it possible that there were no words because there was a problem, the PMOS said: no. Again, that was a matter for the UN.

Asked if this was an issue that we would not want to take with the UN as it came under the category of "escalation", the PMOS replied that there were different stages that had to be gone through in a process such as this. At each stage, we hoped that the objective would be achieved. The Prime Minister had used the word "phases", which was a good word to use. However, we were very clear of our legal position, and that we did have international support for that legal position. As the Prime Minister had said at PMQs, Iran was isolated in terms of its position, and they should reflect on that fact.

Asked if the UN would be put in a different phase, the PMOS said that he did not want to speculate about where we might end up, but he followed the journalist’s train of thought.

Asked if this might come up at the EU Foreign Minister’s meeting at the end of the week, the PMOS said that Chancellor Merkel’s comments today reflected very much the conversations that she had had with the Prime Minister, and reflected the EU position.

Asked if the mood was "delicate", the PMOS replied that these things were always delicate, and it always required judgement about what move to make at which time. What we were trying to do was state our position clearly in a way that demonstrated why we believed our position was right without resolving to rhetoric or anything beyond the facts. The facts did speak for themselves, however. These personnel were in Iraqi waters, and they were operating under UN mandate. Iran should take note of that.

Asked if there had been any contact between the Prime Minister and his counterpart in Iran, the PMOS said that Margaret Beckett had been in touch with her counterpart. The Turks had taken on the role of representing our view to the Iranian Government, and it was not without significance that Germany, which had the EU Presidency, had also links into Tehran over a prolonged period. In terms of representing our view, Tehran was in no doubt as to our position.

Asked what was meant by a "further freeze" on diplomatic links, the PMOS explained that it meant that Iran had no doubt as to what we regarded was the absolute priority, which was to resolve this issue. That meant in terms of other consular business and other business links, everything was now secondary to resolving this matter.

Put that it would not mean expulsions, the PMOS said: no. However, everything was secondary.

Asked if that meant that we would not talk to the Iranians about anything else at the moment, the PMOS said that this was the only priority.

Briefing took place at 15:00 | Search for related news


  1. 48% of Germans think America is more dangerous than Iran:


    Comment by Steve in London — 29 Mar 2007 on 7:12 pm | Link
  2. Terry Jones on the Iranian situation:

    Comment by Walter — 1 Apr 2007 on 1:10 pm | Link

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