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Iranian FM: British sailors to be released shortly

Tehran, June 23, IRNA -- Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi here Wednesday said that the eight British sailors detained in Iran's territorial waters on Monday will be released later in the day.

The British Royal Marines were immediately held by Iranian naval forces on June 21 after they entered the Iranian territorial waters in the Persian Gulf on board of three naval vessels.

Speaking to reporters, Kharrazi said that once the detainees underwent interrogation, it was clarified that they had trespassed Iran's territorial waters by mistake, not intentionally.

"In his phone conversation, the British Prime Minister Jack Straw called for the release of the detained marines. Meanwhile, the sailors themselves apologized for their illegal entrance to Iranian waters," he added.

Addressing reporters along with his Lebanese counterpart Jean Obeid in the premises of Foreign Ministry, Kharrazi assessed the negotiations as positive.

Turning to the fact that the developments in the region reflect the awareness and vigilance of the regional states and underlined that foreigners could never be successful in the region.

He hoped for establishment of stability in the crisis-stricken countries of Iraq and Palestine to enable the two nations overcome their difficulties through their firm determination and make the foreigners withdraw from their lands.

For his part, Obeid expressed satisfaction with the high level of bilateral relations and said, "I am visiting Iran when the country is involved with numerous challenges and is pressurized by the enemy on account of its intention to use nuclear technology towards peaceful purposes."

Stressing that Iran is entitled to peaceful application of nuclear energy, he noted that the pressure exerted on Iran is meant to distract the public opinion from Israeli armament program.

Referring to the common stance of the two countries on regional crises, including the issue of Iraq and Palestine, he said, "We are convinced that the Iraqi and Palestinian people should decide their own fates and hoped that independent governments will take charge in both countries.

"I am against any measure aiming to divide Iraq under any condition. Concerning the Palestine, I believe that the UN should play a pivotal role and enforce its resolutions to the effect."

Referring to the tripartite coalition among Iran, Lebanon and Syria to support the Lebanese Resistance Movement, the minister said, "Resistance marks the honesty and glory of the Lebanese people, given that resistance is in line with defending the legitimate rights of nations.

Obeid also called for bolstering of mutual economic, cultural and trade ties and reiterated the need to raise the current level of relations, given the numerous commonalties between the two countries.

In response to a query raised about the European human rights declaration against Iran, Kharrazi said that their move is an abusive propaganda.

The minister noted that the Foreign Ministry has announced its objection to the declaration and said the document is in contradiction with Iran-EU human rights negotiations held in Tehran.

"Detente, confidence-building, establishment of friendly ties with other countries and preparing the grounds for national development are among the government policies," he added.

In reply to a question raised by a reporter from al-Ahram daily about Imam Mousa Sadr's fate, both ministers announced that efforts are still underway to clarify the facts about him.

Iran's 'nervousness' understandable, suggests Campbell

London, June 23, IRNA - Deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats Menzies Campbell suggested Wednesday that Iran's arrest of eight British servicemen for entering its waters was understandable.

"One has to remember that they are pretty nervous in Tehran at the moment," Campbell said. "There are large numbers of American forces on their doorstep," he said.

He said that Iran was also one of the countries described by the US as being part "axis of evil" and that there was "some loose talk on the fringes of the Bush administration at one stage, if there was success in Iraq then Iran might be next on their agenda."

The Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman was being interviewed on BBC radio's Today programme, following Iran apprehending three British patrol boats, carrying eight marines and naval personnel, after entering Iranian waters on Monday.

He suggested that as events had turned out in the Iraq war, it "seems less and less probable" that the US had any aspirations of invading Iran, but said that "put all together it was not surprising there was some nervousness in Tehran."

Campbell further suggested that there would also be nervousness in the British government after the detained servicemen were shown on television apologising for entering Iranian waters.

Some British newspapers Wednesday raised speculation that the British servicemen may be secret members of Special Forces because of the refusal by Defence Ministry to identify them.

Campbell believed that following reports that Britons may be released soon that it looked as though "common sense and pragmatism has prevailed."

He said that he and many others did not like the US express of 'axis of evil' and suggested that the UK should "engage with a country like Iran."

The British government had "invested a great deal of capital" in building bilaterally relations and "clearly have a considerable stake in Iran behaving in a responsible way," the Liberal Democrat deputy leader said.

... Payvand News - 6/23/04 ... --

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