British authorities roundly condemned Iran's decision to broadcast on Friday a video of Royal Marine rifleman Nathan Thomas Summers saying that he "deeply apologize[d]" for "tresspass[ing] without permission" in Iranian waters, AP reported.[1]  --  A third letter allegedly from Faye Turney was also released, like the previous ones in stilted English ("I am writing to you as a British serviceperson who has been sent to Iraq, sacrificed due to the intervening policies of the Bush and Blair governments").  --  Nasser Karimi noted that "Iran first broadcast the footage of the captives, both Wednesday's and Friday's video, on its Arabic-language TV channel, Al-Alam, rather than on its main Farsi channels.  The decision, which was not explained, appeared to be an attempt to seek support from Arabs in Iraq and the Gulf states, where many resent Britain's military deployment in Iraq and its historical role as a colonial power in the region."  --  Bloomberg News emphasized that on Friday Iran "called upon the U.K. to 'guarantee to avoid the recurrence of such acts,' in a letter delivered to the U.K. Embassy in Tehran yesterday" that "didn't repeat the demand by Iran's military yesterday for a British apology in connection with the naval crew."[2]  --  Robert Lowe, manager of the Middle East program at Chatham House, called this first official letter on the matter from Iran to Britain "significant" and said:  "My feeling is that the Iranians won't push this too far. There are those who would seek confrontation in Iran but there are many more who are pragmatic and moderate, and would not wish this to spiral out of control."  --  (Robin Stringer and Caroline Alexander also reported that "Financial regulators in Italy and the U.K. froze assets of Iran's Bank Sepah," in accordance with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1747, passed on Mar. 23.)  --  Reuters said the Iranian letter 'appeared to resemble a statement used to resolve a similar standoff in 2004 when Iran seized eight British servicemen and held them for three days."[3]  --  The Financial Times of London said there were "[i]ndications of the behind-the-scenes diplomatic activity on Thursday" and added that "Iranian television broadcast comments from a naval commander who claimed that the British forces’ satellite navigation system had shown they had crossed into Iranian waters five times before being arrested."[4] ...


1.

BRITISH MARINE APOLOGIZES ON IRANIAN TV
By Nasser Karimi

Associated Press
March 30, 2007

http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2007/03/30/ap3568622.html

One of the 15 British service members held captive in Iran appeared Friday on state television and said he apologized "deeply" for entering Iranian waters, and the country released a third letter supposedly from the one woman in the crew saying she has been "sacrificed" by Britain.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose government has insisted that its navy personnel were captured in Iraqi waters, immediately condemned Iran's treatment of the captives, saying it "doesn't fool anyone." The European Union meanwhile called for "immediate and unconditional release" of British naval personnel held by Iran.

In the video Friday, Royal Marine rifleman Nathan Thomas Summers was shown sitting with another male serviceman and the female British sailor Faye Turney against a pink floral curtain. Both men wore camouflage fatigues with a label saying "Royal Navy" on their chests and a small British flag stitched to their left sleeves. Turney wore a blue jumpsuit and a black headscarf.

"We trespassed without permission," Summers said, adding he knew that Iran had seized British military personnel who strayed into their waters three years ago.

"This happened back in 2004 and our government said that it wouldn't happen again," Summers said. "And, again, I deeply apologize for entering your waters."

It was not known whether the marine spoke under pressure from his captors, but Summers said in the broadcast "our treatment has been very friendly."

"I really don't know why the Iranian regime keep doing this. I mean all it does is enhance people's sense of disgust. Captured personnel being paraded and manipulated in this way doesn't fool anyone," he [i.e. Tony Blair] said. "What the Iranians have to realize is that if they continue in this way, they will face increasing isolation."

Iran earlier broadcast a video showing Turney saying her team had "trespassed" in Iranian waters, and on Friday released a third letter from her.

The first two letters attributed to Turney said she was sorry the crew strayed into Iranian waters and asked if it wasn't time for Britain to withdraw its troops from Iraq. The first letter was wooden; the second and third had language that was even more stilted.

"I am writing to you as a British serviceperson who has been sent to Iraq, sacrificed due to the intervening policies of the Bush and Blair governments," the letter Friday said.

British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, who also denounced Friday's video as "appalling," said a letter from Iran on the detention of the 15 sailors and marines had done nothing to bring the standoff to a close.

"There is nothing in the letter to suggest that the Iranians are looking for a way out," Beckett told the British Broadcasting Corp.

The letter stopped short of asking for a formal apology but instead asked for Britain to acknowledge its sailors had trespassed into Iranian waters and confirm that it would not happen again. The standoff has added to tensions over Iran's nuclear ambitions and over allegations that Iran is arming Shiite Muslim militias in Iraq.

The sailors, part of a U.N.-mandated force patrolling the Persian Gulf, were seized off the Iraqi coast while searching merchant ships for evidence of smuggling. Britain insists the sailors were seized in Iraqi waters and has said no admission of error would be made.

The TV showed pictures of the light British naval boats at the time of the sailors' seizure. The helicopter flying in the background was British, the Al-Alam newscaster said.

Britain has frozen most bilateral contacts and referred the issue to the U.N. Security Council, which expressed "grave concern" over Iran's seizure of the military personnel. Iran subsequently rolled back an offer to free Turney.

Iran said Friday the Security Council had no place in what it called a purely bilateral dispute: "The British Government's attempt to engage third parties, including the Security Council, with this case is not helpful."

The Iranian statement, released by its mission at the United Nations and in London, said the British and Iranian governments "have been closely examining and discussing the case in order to settle it in a mutually acceptable manner."

"Manifestly, the case entails technical, security, and legal aspects that require sufficient time to address," the mission said, without elaborating.

The office of the Turkish prime minister -- who is trying to mediate the dispute -- said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had indicated his government is willing to reconsider freeing Turney, who is married and has a young daughter.

Iran, which faced new Security Council sanctions just last week over its refusal to abandon uranium enrichment in its disputed nuclear program, has found few open defenders in the crisis.

Iran first broadcast the footage of the captives, both Wednesday's and Friday's video, on its Arabic-language TV channel, Al-Alam, rather than on its main Farsi channels. The decision, which was not explained, appeared to be an attempt to seek support from Arabs in Iraq and the Gulf states, where many resent Britain's military deployment in Iraq and its historical role as a colonial power in the region.

The Iraqi foreign minister has taken Britain's side, reiterating Friday that the navy personnel were captured in its territorial waters. Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari also said the Iraqi government was in contact with Iran to "ensure the wise handling of the case."

The European Union vowed solidarity with Britain, but some diplomats also warned against avoid unnecessary escalation.

"We must put very strong pressure on the Iranians," French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said in a radio interview in Paris. "I think we must avoid confrontation and escalation."

In Tehran, about 700 people staged a brief demonstration against the British sailors' actions. Leaving Tehran University campus after Friday prayers, the protesters walked a few hundred yards down the road chanting "Death to Britain!" and "We condemn the British invasion!"

Crude oil prices kept rising Friday as a jittery market worried that oil exports could be affected by the British-Iranian crisis.

After settling at a six-month high a day earlier, light, oil prices edged higher by midday Friday. Light, sweet crude futures for May delivery rose 15 cents to $66.18 a barrel by midday on the New York Mercantile Exchange in volatile trading.

Trading settled Thursday at $66.03 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange -- the highest settlement price since Sept. 8, 2006, when crude finished at $66.25.

2.

IRAN TELEVISES BRITON'S 'ILLEGAL ENTRY' STATEMENT
By Robin Stringer and Caroline Alexander

Bloomberg News
March 30, 2007

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aP._7Di7OnNw

Iranian television showed a second U.K. naval crew member purportedly admitting illegal entry into Iran's waters, after the Foreign Ministry in Tehran demanded a "guarantee" that it won't happen again.

Nathan Thomas Summers said he and 14 other sailors and fellow Marines "entered Iranian waters illegally," and "would like to apologize to the Iranian people," according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency. Faye Turney, the only woman detainee, was shown in a similar interview March 28. Iran today released a third letter said to be from Turney, in which she is described as being "sacrificed" to U.S.-U.K. policy.

"I really don't know why the Iranian regime keeps doing this," U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair told reporters in the English city of Manchester after the Summers video. "All it does is enhances people's sense of disgust. It doesn't fool anyone."

The March 23 seizure of the crew in a waterway separating Iran and Iraq has heightened international tensions over the Islamic Republic, which is under United Nations sanctions for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment for a nuclear program that Western countries allege is being used to develop weapons. The U.S. and the U.K. also accuse Iran of supporting attacks in Iraq.

Iran called upon the U.K. to "guarantee to avoid the recurrence of such acts," in a letter delivered to the U.K. Embassy in Tehran yesterday. The letter was reprinted today by the official news agency. The diplomatic letter didn't repeat the demand by Iran's military yesterday for a British apology in connection with the naval crew.

FIRST LETTER

The Foreign Ministry's letter is "significant" because it is the first official one the Iranians have sent to the British government, Robert Lowe, manager of the Middle East program at the London-based Chatham House international affairs institute, said today in a telephone interview.

"My feeling is that the Iranians won't push this too far," Lowe said. "There are those who would seek confrontation in Iran but there are many more who are pragmatic and moderate, and would not wish this to spiral out of control."

The sailors and Marines were detained by Iranian forces in the Shatt al-Arab waterway. The U.K. has said the crew's two boats were 1.7 nautical miles (3.1 kilometers) inside Iraqi waters. Iran says the vessels were half a kilometer inside its territorial waters.

"There is potential for common ground based on the principle that this shouldn't happen again in the future," former British ambassador to Iran Richard Dalton said in a televised interview with Bloomberg News in London today. "Each side has either got to find middle ground or one side has to stand down."

'BIG MISTAKE'

European Union foreign ministers prodded Iran to release the Britons, calling their detention a "big mistake" that could do further damage to Iran's international standing.

The EU will send a "signal of solidarity" with Britain at a meeting of diplomats in Bremen, Germany, the meeting's host, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, told reporters today.

The EU is being "very helpful and supportive," U.K. Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said as she arrived at the meeting.

The U.N. Security Council yesterday said Iran should release the U.K. service personnel and called for an "early resolution to this problem."

The U.N. has no role in the dispute, and attempts to engage the Security Council with a "purely bilateral" issue "are completely unacceptable, unwarranted, and unjustifiable," the Iranian Embassy in London said today in an e-mailed statement. The Security Council was exploited, Iran's mission to the U.N. said today in a statement carried by the official news agency, Agence France-Presse reported.

Oil rebounded to trade near a six-month high as the sailors and Marines remained in Iranian custody for an eighth day. Crude oil for May delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose 26 cents to $66.28 a barrel at 1:05 p.m. in London after earlier climbing 72 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $66.75.

Financial regulators in Italy and the U.K. froze assets of Iran's Bank Sepah. The Italian central bank today said the action was in compliance with sanctions detailed in a March 24 resolution by the U.N. Security Council in response to Iran's nuclear program.

--To contact the reporters on this story: Robin Stringer in London at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; Caroline Alexander in London at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

3.

IRAN TV SHOWS 'CONFESSION' OF BRITISH SAILOR
By Sophie Walker

Original source: Reuters

LONDON -- Iranian television broadcast footage of three of 15 captured British sailors and marines on Friday and said one had confessed to entering Iranian waters illegally and had apologised to the Iranian people.

"We trespassed without permission. Since we have been arrested our treatment has been friendly. We have not been harmed at all," one of them, whose name was read out as Nathan Thomas Summers, said on state television.

"I would like to apologize for entering your waters without any permission . . . I deeply apologize," he said. "They have looked after us really well."

The statement came as Britain said it was considering a note from Tehran over the standoff which began a week ago when Iran seized the sailors in the Gulf. Iran said they were in its waters, which Britain denies.

"The use of the hostages in this way is entirely wrong, cruel, and has no place in proper international conduct," a source in British Prime Minister Tony Blair's office said of their being shown on TV.

The footage showed two men in camouflage and a woman in blue fatigues and a headscarf talking calmly and smiling in a room with a floral wallpaper background.

European Union foreign ministers considered backing London with practical measures to put pressure on Iran to free the 15.

Iran's note, the first written communication from Tehran to Britain over the issue, appeared to resemble a statement used to resolve a similar standoff in 2004 when Iran seized eight British servicemen and held them for three days.

A source in Blair's office said Britain was still considering the note, after London failed to secure tough condemnation of the sailors' seizure from the U.N. Security Council.

Britain and Iran are at odds over whether the 15 were in Iranian or Iraqi waters when captured by Iranian Revolutionary Guards after searching a merchant ship.

London says satellite data prove the seizure was in Iraqi waters, but Tehran has video footage and charts it says show the event took place in Iranian territory.

Blair's office said Britain would respond to the note as soon as possible but it was too early to say whether it would lead to a resolution of the crisis.

Iran's IRNA news agency on Friday reported the contents of the letter, published in English, which it said was sent by Iran's Foreign Ministry to the British embassy in Tehran.

The letter said Iran: ". . . emphasizes the respect for the rules and principles of international law concerning the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states, underlines the responsibility of the British government for the consequences of such violation, and calls for the guarantee to avoid the recurrence of such acts."

The letter did not appear to demand an apology from Britain as several Iranian officials had previously called for.

(Additional reporting by Crispian Balmer in Paris and Fredrik Dahl in Tehran)

4.

In depth

Iran

IRAN SHOWS FOOTAGE OF CAPTURED SAILORS
By Daniel Dombey (London), Gareth Smyth (Tehran), Mark Turner (Beirut), and agencies

Financial Times (UK)
March 30, 2007

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/9b32ba34-deaf-11db-b5c9-000b5df10621.html

The stand-off between Britain and Iran over the capture of 15 UK naval personnel continued on Friday as the Iranians showed new television footage in which one marine apparently confessed to entering Iranian waters and apologized.

Al-Alam, an Arabic-language state controlled television station, showed an interview with the marine, identified as Nathan Thomas Summers. “I deeply apologize for entering your waters,” he said in the interview. “We trespassed without permission.”

He was pictured with another serviceman and the female British sailor Faye Turney, the only woman in the group.

The Foreign Office immediately condemned the broadcast, saying it was “disgraceful exploitation.”

Tony Blair, prime minister, urged patience in dealing with Iran, and said Britain would consult its key allies over the weekend.

”I really don’t know why the Iranian regime keeps doing this. All it does is enhance peoples’ disgust at captured personnel being paraded and manipulated in this way,” he said. ”What the Iranians have to realize is that if they continue in this way they will face increasing isolation.”

Britain received the backing of the EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who declared: ”The British soldiers should be released immediately and without preconditions.”

His unequivocal support contrasted with the watered down U.N. Security Council statement issued on Thursday night, expressing concern at the detention of the personnel.

After hours of negotiations, Sir Emyr Jones Parry, Britain’s ambassador to the U.N., said the council called “for an early resolution of this problem, including the release of the 15 personnel.” Russia had blocked a tougher statement that would have demanded an immediate release.

Iran responded to the U.N. statement, saying Britain’s attempt to engage third parties, including the Security Council, was “not helpful,” adding that the case “can and should be settled through bilateral channels.”

Indications of the behind-the-scenes diplomatic activity on Thursday came after the U.N. statement when Britain said it was giving “serious consideration” to a formal note from Iran about the 15 personnel. The Foreign Office said: “Such exchanges are always confidential, so we cannot divulge any details. But we are giving the message serious consideration, and will soon respond formally.” The note was received by the British embassy in Tehran.

Britain’s battle to win U.N. support came amid escalating tensions, with Tehran saying it would not free the one woman held and Tony Blair calling Iran’s actions “a disgrace.”

Before the release on Thursday night of the U.N. statement, diplomats said Britain’s efforts to persuade the Security Council had been hampered by doubts voiced by Russia, China, and other countries over U.K. insistence that the declaration must state the 15 were captured while in Iraqi waters.

Russia has voiced concerns about rising tensions -- already high because of the row over Iran’s nuclear program, which led the Security Council to impose sanctions last weekend.

Sergei Lavrov, Russian foreign minister, said: “The Gulf is in such an agitated state that any action in this region, especially one that involves the navy or other military forces, must take into account the need not to aggravate the situation.”

Iranian television broadcast comments from a naval commander who claimed that the British forces’ satellite navigation system had shown they had crossed into Iranian waters five times before being arrested.

Ali Larijani, Iran’s top security official, said the U.K.’s decision to take the matter to the Security Council meant that Iran would not follow through on an earlier promise to free Ms. Turney.

Iranian television later said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would consider a request from Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish premier, to free Ms. Turney.