Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Iran releases British hostages

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has announced that he is to release the 15 sailors that were taken hostage 13 days ago. Speaking at the end of a press conference and a ceremony in which medals for bravery were handed to soldiers, the Iranian President said he was returning the sailors as a ‘gift’ to Britain in the “spirit of the Prophet Mohammed”. The Iranian President was later seen meeting the captives in what is likely to be criticized as yet another propaganda show. The British Prime Minister Tony Blair said he was pleased to hear the news, which broke at around 13:00 GMT. However it appeared Mr Blair, and the Foreign Office, was caught off guard as he took nearly three and a half hours to make a statement. His address to the waiting media was brief lasting a little over one and a half minutes: “I’m glad that our 15 service personnel have been released. I know their release will come as a profound relief not only for them but to their families that have endured such distress and anxiety over these past twelve days. Throughout we have taken a measured approach, firm but calm; not negotiating but not confronting either. I would like to thank our allies in Europe, our allies in the United Nations Security Council for their support and also our friends and allies in the region who played their part. We’re grateful to all of them as we are to the officials in the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence and here in Downing Street for the work that they have done. And to the Iranian people I would simply say this; we bear you no ill will. On the contrary we respect Iran as an ancient civilization; as a nation with a proud and dignified history. And the disagreements that we have with your government we wish to resolve peacefully through dialogue. I hope as I’ve always hoped that in the future we are able to do so. That’s all I’ve got to say for this evening, thankyou very much indeed, thankyou.” And with that the Prime Minister returned to Number 10 accompanied with his Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett. According to Sky News the 14 men and 1 woman will be handed over to the British Embassy in Tehran and are expected to fly home on Thursday [BBC].

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