UK Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon Wednesday dismissed reports that British troops had been deployed on Iraq's eastern border to counter any intervention in the Iraq war by Iran, IRNA reported from London.
"Much of coalition-controlled Iraq bordering Iran is under British command, but the suggestion that Royal Marines were sent to guard against Iranian forces are simply not true," Hoon told MPs.
"We are seeking close contact with Iranian authorities to reduce the scope for any potential misunderstanding," he said in reference to a report by the BBC that the US and UK were concerned about Iran's interference in the war.
On Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw dismissed the BBC's claims about Iranian troops as 'poor' reporting, saying that there was 'no basis of evidence at all to substantiate' claimed Iranian militia incursions.
Speaking during Prime Minister's Questions Wednesday, Tony Blair also said 'there appears to be no substance' to reports that Iranian irregular militia had opened fire on British troops.
"I think they know what the consequences for any such action against British military troops will be," he said. Messages sent to Iran had been 'very, very clear' he said, adding he believed that they 'will be heeded'.
His more stark tone contrasted with Straw emphasizing that the importance he attached to developing good relations with Iran and saying that he was 'only in touch with Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi talking about this and other matters last Thursday'.
UK welcomes Iran's neutrality in Iraq war
The British government says that it appreciates Iran's impartial stance on not interfering in the US-led war against Iraq.
"We continually assess all aspects of the military situation in Iraq. In this context, we welcome the Iranian government's assurances that in accordance with Iran's neutrality, it is not their intention that their troops will enter Iraq," Foreign Office Minister Mike O'Brien told MPs.
On Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw twice emphasized the efforts he had made over the past two years to improve relations between the UK and Iran.
At a joint press conference with visiting Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana, he also highlighted that Iran knows "more than any other country about the terror and evil which is perpetrated by Saddam Hussein on his own people and also on Iranians."
"When I was last in Tehran the president there told me very poignantly when I was talking to him about what had happened 12 or more years ago. He said still every day there are people in Iran who die from the effects of the gassings--chemical warfare--perpetrated by Saddam Hussein," Straw said.
Earlier in parliament, he dismissed claims that Iranian troops were trying to militarily intervene in the US-led war against Iraq as "poor" reporting.
"The reports about Iranian militia incursions into Iran have no basis in evidence at all to substantiate what we regard as poor reports from the media about this," the foreign secretary said.
"I see no evidence about this at all and, moreover, we have good relations with the government of Iran and I was only in touch with Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi talking about this and other matters last Thursday," he said.
... Payvand News - 3/26/03 ... --