UK naval crew reunited with families

Blair says no deal was made with Iran to secure the release of the 15 captives.

jp.services2 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
The 15 members of the British Royal Navy crew freed by Iran were taken by helicopter to Royal Navy Base Chivenor in Devon on Thursday where they were reunited with their families. The sailors and marines were set to be debriefed after seeing their relatives.
  • Analysis: Iran exposes Britain's weakness The 15 had earlier landed at London's Heathrow Airport under heavy guard. Armed police patrolled the tarmac as two military helicopters idled on the airport's north runway. The British Airways plane landed at the VIP suite near Heathrow's Terminal Four, and passengers were being led off the back of the plane. As the 15 arrived, Prime Minister Tony Blair stressed that the UK had not made a deal with Teheran to secure the captives' release but said that "new and interesting lines of communication [had] opened up" with Iran, "and it's sensible for us to continue to pursue those." Blair also called for continued international pressure on Teheran following the deaths of four servicemen in an attack in Iraq earlier in the day. "We return to the sober and ugly reality of what is happening through terrorism in Iraq, terrorism designed specifically to thwart the will of the international community." "Now it is far too early to say that the particular terrorist act that killed our forces was an acted committed by terrorists that were backed by any elements of the Iranian regime, so I make no allegation in respect of that particular incident," Blair said. He said it was "sensible" for Britain to continue to pursue the new lines of communication. "However, the international community has got to remain absolutely steadfast in enforcing its will whether it is in respect of nuclear weapons or in respect of the support of any part of the Iranian regime particularly when directed against democratic governments." Wednesday's announcement of their release in Teheran was a breakthrough in a crisis that had escalated over nearly two weeks, raising oil prices and fears of military conflict in the volatile region. The move to release the sailors suggested that Iran's hard-line leadership decided it had shown its strength but did not want to push the standoff too far. Iran did not get the main thing it sought - a public apology for entering Iranian waters. Britain, which said its crew was in Iraqi waters when seized, insists it never offered a quid pro quo, either, instead relying on quiet diplomacy. Syria, Iran's close ally, said it played a role in winning the release. "Syria exercised a sort of quiet diplomacy to solve this problem and encourage dialogue between the two parties," the country's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said in Damascus.