Ahmadinejad Hammers Tony Blair For Sending A Mother To War
Syria Claims It Helped Resolve Standoff Between Iran And Britain
15 British military personnel detained for almost two weeks in Iran, after being captured by the Iranian coast guard in disputed waters in the Persian Gulf, have been released by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The Iranian president said the act of pardoning the British sailors and giving them their freedom was a "gift" to their families, and the UK, for Easter.
Ahmadinejad made the announcement during a two hour speech in Tehran, during which he decorated the Iranian coast guard crews who captured the Brits. He claimed even though the Royal Navy sailors and Royal Marines had violated "Iranian territorial waters", he was prepared to forgive them and let them go back to their families.
All 15 Britons are expected to arrive home tonight, after being moved to the British Embassy compound in the Iranian capital :
"This pardon is a gift to the British people," the President said, observing that it falls between the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad last weekend and the celebration of Easter.
"On the occasion of the birthday of the great prophet and for the occasion of the passing of Christ, I say the Islamic Republic government and the Iranian people — with all powers and legal right to put the soldiers on trial — forgave those 15."
The Iranian president said he was asking PM Tony Blair not to judge the sailors and marines for their televised "confessions", where they said they had violated Iranian waters, while checking out ships suspected of smuggling cars into Iraq.
"(Do not) judge the military personnel for the truths that they said," he said, referring to the televised "confessions".The Iranian president used the speech to blast British Prime Minister Tony Blair for allowing women, and in particular a mother of young children, to go to the front lines of the Iraq War.
The President says the British Government has promised not to repeat the incident which saw the sailors' captured."The British Government, in a letter, has vowed not to repeat such incidents. But this release is not linked to this letter. It is due to Islamic goodwill,"
"Why is the most difficult task, patrolling in the sea, given to a woman? How can you justify seeing a mother away from her home, her children? Why don’t they respect family values in the West?Faye Turney is the young mother the Iranian president referred to, and the Iranian news agency, Fars, claims she burst into tears when she heard the president's words.
Turney became the most public face of the crisis back in the UK, and while the unfolding drama, and diplomatic stand-off continued, receiving wall to wall coverage in the British media, it did not incite mass anger or outrage.
Britons, for the most part, did not appear concerned that the sailors and marines would face execution, as some right-wing American media propagandized would happen while furiously beating the drums for war on Iran.
The Iranian president used the dramatic announcement to press his case that Iran does not want war with the West, but peace :
"We are really distraught that British youths join the army to earn a living and then, thousands of miles away, they get arrested. We don't want this to happen," he added.
"We invite everyone to worship one God with compassion, humanity, where there is loyalty and justice so that people will love one another."
Negotiations between Britain and Iranian diplomats were said to have been intense, with Iran demanding Britain officially apologise for "violating" Iranian territory, and the British disputing that claim while trying to tamp down any talk of threats of retaliatory action, outside of complaining to the United Nations Security Council about the incident.
When Ahmadinejad met the British sailors and marines, shortly before setting them free, he joked to them : "So you came on a mandatory vacation..."
To the absolute shock, and no doubt fury, of American NeoCons, one of the captured marines, Captain Chris Air, was seen on Iranian television happily greeting the Iranian president, saying :
"We're very grateful for your forgiveness. On behalf of the group I'd like to thank yourself and the Iranian people."Syria, meanwhile, claims it played a key role in settling the dispute between Iran and Britain :
"Syrian efforts and the Iranian willingness culminated with the release of the British sailors," said Information Minister Mohsen Bilal.
He said Syria had been asked "to help positively in the issue..."
Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem told reporters that "Syria exercised a sort of quiet diplomacy to solve this problem and encourage dialogue" between Britain and Iran.
The Washington Times, the Bush Dynasty's "favourite newspaper" claims that an Iranian diplomat detained in Iraq was freed as part of the negotiations to have the British sailors released :
Diplomat Jalal Sharafi arrived in Tehran yesterday, hours after he was freed by his captors in Iraq, officials said. He was seized Feb. 4 by uniformed gunmen in Karradah, a Shi'ite-controlled district of Baghdad.
Iran said the diplomat had been abducted by an Iraqi military unit commanded by U.S. forces -- a charge repeated by several Iraqi Shi'ite lawmakers. U.S. authorities denied any role in his disappearance.
In Baghdad, an Iraqi Foreign Ministry official said the Iraqi government had exerted pressure on those holding Mr. Sharafi to release him -- but he would not identify the diplomat's captors.
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