» Thursday, March 29, 2007


The PMOS informed Lobby the Foreign Secretary reported to Cabinet on Iran where she outlined the efforts that we had been making, both to set out the case factually, to keep our allies in Europe informed as reflected in Chancellor Merkel’s speech to the European Parliament yesterday, and now to discuss the matter further at the UN. Not only had the UN Secretary-General made his view clear on the matter, but we also understood he would be discussing the matter with the Iranian Foreign Minister today. We would also be discussing with our allies in the UN as well.

Asked if there was anything specific that we wanted our allies to do, in terms of making statements for example, the PMOS replied that it was important that Iran knew that it was isolated on this issue. And Iran was isolated on this issue. We had tried to adopt a factual position on this, and we had tried not to resort to rhetoric, but we had tried to resolve this issue. We welcomed the support of all other countries in trying to achieve that, and we believed further developments would underline that fact.

Asked what we expected from other countries in terms of practical developments, the PMOS replied that so far for instance the EU had practically supported us both in terms of its statement at the weekend and also in what Chancellor Merkel said yesterday. Let us see what happens now in the UN.

Asked if we were expecting any Security Council resolutions, the PMOS replied that it was better that events unfolded in New York, rather than him providing a commentary in advance.

Asked if any specific requests or specific measures had been discussed with our EU partners, the PMOS replied that at this stage we had been asking for them to underline their support for our position, which they had done.

Asked for the Prime Minister’s reaction to the TV pictures of the naval personnel last night, the PMOS replied that nobody should be put in that position. It was an impossible position to be put in and it was wrong. It was wrong in terms of the usual conventions that cover this kind of situation, and it was wrong just in terms of basic humanity.

Put that that Iranians had suggested that we should admit that we were in the wrong, and asked if there was any prospect of us doing that, the PMOS replied that yesterday everyone saw the factual analysis of the situation. That was supported by the fact that the Iranians themselves initially gave coordinates over the weekend which were in Iraqi waters. It was only when this was repeatedly pointed out to them that they then changed their coordinates to just inside Iranian waters. It was difficult to change the facts.

Put that the Iranian Foreign Minister had been quoted as saying that British officials could be given consular access to personnel, the PMOS replied that first off we should deal with the facts, and so far we had not been given access.

Asked what if it was just a question of us losing face to get these personnel released, the PMOS replied that the facts were the facts.

Put that the Prime Minister had talked the other a day about entering a different phase, and asked whether there was another phase, the PMOS replied that as the Prime Minister had said at PMQs, we had widened the net of arguing our case. First of all we got the support of the EU, and today we were discussing the issue at the UN. So we were going through different phases. But we wanted this resolved, we did not want a confrontation over this, and we want this resolved as quickly as possible. We were not seeking in any way to put Iran in a corner, we were simply saying asking them to release the personnel as they should not have been seized in the first place.

Asked what would happen if the different phases, the EU and the UN, got nowhere, the PMOS replied that people should take this step by step. It helped no one, least of all the personnel involved, to race ahead.

Put that the statement "we do not seek to push Iran into a corner" seemed to contradict with the earlier statement that we sought to isolate Iran, the PMOS replied that it was not us seeking to isolate Iran, it was Iran that had isolated itself by taking this action and refusing, despite the overwhelming view that it was wrong, to release the prisoners. Iran therefore had a choice. What we did not want to do was isolate Iran simply for the sake of isolating Iran. We did however want to point out that it was isolated in trying to defend these actions. Iran was isolated already, that was a statement of fact not a threat. No one was supporting Iran in arguing its case. The way to get out of that situation would be to release the prisoners.

Briefing took place at 9:00 | Search for related news

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