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UK, Iran bilateral links suspended

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30.MAR.07

The UK government has suspended bilateral relationships with Iran until a dispute over the seizure of British sailors from Iraqi waters is resolved.

Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett told MPs that diplomatic efforts were continuing with Iranian officials to release the 15 navy personnel.

However, other business has been suspended, with “aspects of our policy towards Iran under close review”.{{more}}

Iran seized the personnel five days ago, saying they were in their waters.

Earlier the Ministry of Defence had shown satellite data which it said proved the personnel were 1.7 nautical miles inside Iraqi waters when they were seized.

Vice Admiral Charles Style said the sailors had been “ambushed” after the search of a vessel and that their detention was “unjustified and wrong”.

Mrs Beckett, making a statement to the House of Commons on Wednesday, repeated the prime minister’s position that the situation had reached “a different phase”.

“That is why MoD have today released details of the incident and why I have concluded that we need to focus all our bilateral efforts during this phase to resolution of this issue.

“We will, therefore be imposing a freeze on all other official bilateral business with Iran until this situation is resolved.”

Iran has failed to agree to British demands, she said, although she added it had made no demands.

Britain had asked for information on the personnel, consular access to them and their release.

“No one should be in any doubt about the seriousness with which we regard these events,” Mrs Beckett said.

The Iranians have said the incident is not linked to any bilateral, regional or international issue, she added.

The US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other British allies had given support to Britain in demanding the release of the 15.

“I am particularly grateful to my colleague, Hoshyar Zebari, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, who has confirmed publicly that the incident took place in Iraqi waters, calling for the personnel, who are acting in Iraq’s interests, to be released.” (BBC)

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