News Brief – April 4, 2007
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday that the 15 British sailors and marines would be freed.
The move was described as a "gift" to Britain by the Iranian president. However, he rebuked Britain for not being "brave enough" to admit they had made a mistake and strayed into Iranian waters.
The surprise announcement came at the end of a lengthy news conference, where President Ahmadinejad also awarded medals to the naval commanders who captured the 15 in the northern Gulf on March 23.
He said the captives would be released immediately after the news conference. Oil prices fell more than 50 cents after the announcement and Tony Blair later welcomed their release.
"They are free after this meeting and can go back to their families," Ahmadinejad told the news conference broadcast live to many countries.
After the press conference, President Ahmadinejad met up with the fifteen sailors and marines, joking to one: "How are you? So you came on a mandatory vacation?"
Jokes aside however, there has been speculation that a deal had been agreed behind the scenes after, Jalal Sharafi, an Iranian diplomat who had been abducted in Iraq was freed and repatriated
to Iran on Tuesday.
Men allegedly wearing Iraqi army uniforms abducted the diplomat in February.
Observers have commentated that the timing of announcement, coming so soon after Jalal Sharafi’s release might indicate that a trade-off had taken place and that Sharafi may have been abducted and held on the orders of Coalition forces, not renegade insurgents as the mainstream media has suggested.
Iranian and British officials had both moderated their positions on the captured Britins after the issue had blown into a crisis.
The mainstream media has not yet described the two events as a "trade-off" and very few media outlets have even connected Sharafi's release with that of the Britons.
Last updated 05/04/2007