30/03/2007

Second sailor 'apology' screened by Iran

Footage has been broadcast on Iranian television showing a second member of the captured Royal Navy crew apologising for "trespassing" in Iranian waters.

The crewman, who introduced himself as Nathan Thomas Summers, said that the Britons had entered into Iranian waters without permission and apologised to the Iranian people.

A similar statement was also made by Leading Seaman Faye Turney - the only female captive - on Wednesday. On Friday, Iran released a letter, allegedly written by Mrs Turney, claiming that she had been "sacrificed" to the policies of the British and US government. It also called on the British government to end "its oppressive behaviour towards other people".

Prime Minister Tony Blair said that the footage would "fool no-one" and said that "parading" the personnel in that way would only "enhance" the public's sense of "disgust" with Iran.

The fifteen personnel - eight sailors and seven marines - were captured by Iranian forces last Friday.

The crew from HMS Cornwall were taking part in a routine operation in the Shatt Al Arab waterway when they were detained.

Iran claimed that they had strayed into their waters. However, this was denied by the British government and on Wednesday the Ministry of Defence released evidence confirming that the personnel were 1.7 nautical miles inside Iraqi territory when they were seized.

Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett confirmed that Iran's foreign ministry sent a formal letter to the British Embassy in Tehran about the crisis.

According to reports, the letter condemns the "illegal act" committed by the personnel and calls for the establishment of a technical forum to ensure that British forces do not enter Iranian waters again.

However, it has been reported that the note does not call for an apology, although Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called on Britain to apologise.

The United Nations Security Council has issued a statement expressing "grave concern" over the crisis and calling for the personnel to be released.

However the wording of the issued statement is not the stronger condemnation that Britain wanted.

(KMcA/SP)

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