» Tuesday, June 22, 2004


Asked the Prime Minister’s view on what would appear to be a ‘looming crisis’ in Iran, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that we had now been told formally by the Iranian authorities that they were holding eight British military personnel and three boats. This morning, the Foreign Secretary had spoken to his Iranian counterpart, Kamal Kharazzi, in Tehran to raise his concerns about the detention. Foreign Minister Kharazzi had said that he would look into the case personally. We had asked for full details of the incident and for access to those being held. We would continue to do all we could to try to establish the facts. It went without saying that we wanted this matter to be resolved as quickly as possible.

Asked if the Iranian authorities had set out what they believed the eight British military personnel had been up to prior to being captured, the PMOS repeated that we were trying to establish the facts of the case. Asked to confirm reports that the Iranians had decided to prosecute the detainees, the PMOS said that we had no confirmation that that was going to happen at this stage. Asked if we knew where the eight Britons were being held, the PMOS said that we were seeking clarification. Asked if the Iranian Foreign Minister had explained why British diplomats had not been given access to the eight, the PMOS reiterated Mr Kharazzi’s assurance to us that he would look into the case personally.

Asked for a reaction to the suggestion that the detention was the work of a faction of the Iranian Government, the PMOS said that there was no evidence to support such speculation. We were assessing the situation and would obtain the facts from the Iranian Government. We wanted this issue to be resolved as quickly as possible. Asked if Downing Street was confident that what had happened had been an accident on the part of the eight military personnel involved, the PMOS said that it was important to establish the facts before commenting any further. It would not be helpful to engage in speculation at this stage. The way to resolve this issue as quickly as possible was for the UK to talk to the Iranian authorities at all levels. Asked if he was suggesting that the Prime Minister might get involved, the PMOS said that we would wait for Foreign Minister Kharazzi to look into the case personally in the first instance. His conversation with Mr Straw had only taken place this morning so it was inevitable that it would take a little bit of time for him to investigate what had happened.

Asked to describe how badly the incident had soured British-Iranian relations, the PMOS said that rather than talk in such terms, it was more important to try to resolve the issue together with the Iranian authorities. That was precisely what we were currently focussed on doing. Getting drawn into generalities would not be a useful exercise.

Asked to confirm that the eight detainees had not been under any orders to enter Iranian waters or taken part in any operation that might have involved such entry, the PMOS said that those being held were a team combining Marines and Royal Navy sailors who were involved in training the Iraqi river patrol service. Put to him that we had said yesterday that the detainees had been delivering boats to the river patrol service, the PMOS said that there was no contradiction between the two positions. The eight military personnel had been involved in establishing the Iraqi river patrol service and were training Iraqis to operate it. Put to him repeatedly that there was a big difference between delivering a boat and being on a training exercise, the PMOS said that we were trying to establish precisely what had happened. That said, it was clear that the function of the eight military personnel was to train the Iraq river patrol service. Asked if there had been any Iraqis on the boats, the PMOS said not as far as he was aware. Questioned as to how, n that case, the Marines and Royal Navy sailors would have been training them, the PMOS repeated that we were still trying to piece together all the facts.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news


  1. Hummm "Truth is the first casualty of War" 🙁

    Comment by Roger Huffadine — 22 Jun 2004 on 8:23 pm | Link
  2. Transparency is its first victim; truth is only sacrificed when things go wrong.

    Comment by Gregory Block — 23 Jun 2004 on 8:49 am | Link

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