Britons were gathering intelligence on Iranians: Detainee
BRITAIN: The British sailors seized by Iran in the Gulf were
gathering intelligence on Iranian activities as part of their routine
operations, one of them said in an interview before their capture but
only broadcast Thursday.
â€śWe sort of gather int (intelligence) as well,â€ť Royal Marine Captain
Chris Air, 25 told Sky News television in the interview filmed three
weeks ago but only broadcast after their release to avoid jeapordizing
efforts to free them.
The seven marines and eight sailors flew home Thursday after their
13-day ordeal, which began when they were seized in the northern Gulf on
March 23, while carrying out what London said was â€śroutineâ€ť
The British channel was with many of those captured as they carried
out patrols in the northern Gulf, under a United Nations mandate to
protect Iraqâ€™s territorial waters. On an Iraqi fishing vessel, during a
routine boarding, Air said they gathered intelligence from such boats.
â€śIf they do have any information because theyâ€™re here for days at a
time they can share with us, whether itâ€™s about any piracy or any sort
of Iranian activity in the area, because obviously weâ€™re right near the
buffer zone with Iran,â€ť he said.
Air also disclosed that the captain of the fishing vessel he was on
said the Iranian military was illegally boarding Iraqi boats.
â€śThis dhow had been robbed by some Iranian, some soldiers about three
days ago. They had some money taken off them and apparently itâ€™s
happened quite a lot of times in the past so its good to gather int as
well on the Iranians,â€ť he said.
Britainâ€™s Defence Secretary Des Browne said that the crew from HMS
Cornwall were right to find out all they could about what was going on
in the area.
â€śThe UN mandate would clearly empower the military who are part of
the task force to gather information about the environment in which they
were working,â€ť he told Sky News.
â€śItâ€™s important to have that information because that information
then informs the way in which we keep our people secure as they work in
Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, the head of Britainâ€™s armed
forces, refused to be drawn.
â€śWhen weâ€™re engaged in operations we donâ€™t like everyone to know the
details of what weâ€™re doing and we never discuss operational details so
Iâ€™m aware you get these snippets from time to time but you canâ€™t expect
me to talk about them,â€ť he told Sky News.
Meanwhile none of the sailors and marines freed by Iran will be
punished for making apologies to the Iranians, the Defense Ministry
said, but authorities will study the procedures being followed by the
Royal Navy team when it was captured.
The ministry said officials would examine the circumstances in which
some of the 15 sailors and marines appeared in videos on Iranian state
television offering regrets for entering Iranâ€™s territorial waters,
while Britainâ€™s government has insisted they were in Iraqi waters.
The footage was met with disgust in Britain, where some blamed the
Iranians but others harshly criticized the prisoners for caving in to
pressure. Defense officials sought to quash the criticism of its
â€śThey did exactly as they should have done from start to finish and
we are proud of them,â€ť said Air Chief Marshal Jock Stirrup, the head of
Britainâ€™s armed forces and top military adviser.
Meanwhile former US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said
the hostage crisis between Britain and Iran ended in a â€śdouble victoryâ€ť
â€śIn a way I think the regime in Tehran has won a double victory,â€ť
said Bolton, interviewed on the US-funded Alhurra Arabic-language
television network, about Iranâ€™s capture of 15 British naval personnel.
â€śThey won a victory when they captured the hostages and they won a
victory when they released the hostagesâ€ť on Wednesday, he said.
Earlier the United States welcomed Iranâ€™s release of 15 British
captives but warned Tehran of possible new sanctions if the Islamic
republic does not freeze sensitive nuclear work.
But even as Washington tellingly praised London, not Tehran, for the
end of the tense standoff over the detained sailors and marines, Iran
flatly rejected UN demands to suspend uranium and reprocessing
US President George W. Bush, on his Texas ranch for a long Easter
weekend, spoke for about an hour by secure video with British Prime
Minister Tony Blair, US national security council spokesman Gordon
Johndroe told reporters.
â€śThe president welcomed the safe return of the British personnel who
had been detained in Iran. He also commended the British on their
resolve in bringing the situation to a peaceful resolution,â€ť said
US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack accused Iran of using
â€śhostage-taking as a tool of its international diplomacy,â€ť and confirmed
that Washington had toned down its rhetoric throughout the standoff.
London, Washington, Friday, AFP, AP