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US Navy Steps Up Vigilance After Britain-Iran Standoff

The chief of naval operations, Admiral Michael Mullen said the "main message" in the United States having two aircraft carrier battle groups at present in the Persian Gulf "is to reassure our friends" from a "position of great strength."
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) April 03, 2007
The US Navy said Tuesday it had stepped up vigilance following Iran's recent seizure of 15 British marines and sailors for allegedly entering Iranian waters.

"We need to be mindful of not just protecting our units but ensure that our people are protected when they are off their ship and then, we have procedures in place to ensure that something like that doesn't occur to American sailors," said the chief of naval operations, Admiral Michael Mullen.

"I am confident that we got those in place but I am mindful, watching what occurred (to the British sailors), that we need to be very vigilant with respect to that," he said, when answering a question at a Washington forum.

The 14 British men and one woman were seized in the northern Gulf on March 23 and accused of trespassing in Iranian waters.

Britain insists they were in Iraqi waters.

Mullen said the "main message" in the United States having two aircraft carrier battle groups at present in the Persian Gulf "is to reassure our friends" from a "position of great strength."

US President George W. Bush ordered a second US aircraft carrier battle group to the Gulf in January and announced the deployment of a Patriot missile defense battalion to the region to protect allies against potential missile strikes.

Bush vowed at the time that US forces would "seek out and destroy" any networks funneling weapons or fighters from Syria or Iran into Iraq.

A senior US military official had said that the United States planned to keep two aircraft carrier battle groups in the Gulf for months -- the first such deployment since the first year of the Iraq war.

earlier related report
No quid pro quos with Iran: Bush
Washington (AFP) April 3 - President George W. Bush on Tuesday said there should be no "quid pro quos" with Iran in Britain's standoff with Iran over 15 captive sailors.

Asked if five Iranians held in Iraq should be released to favor a possible release of the Britons, Bush said "I also strongly support the prime minister's (Tony Blair's) declaration that there should be no quid pro quos when it comes to the hostages."

Blair said earlier Tuesday that the standoff with Iran over the captive sailors was in a "critical" phase, after a top Tehran official said new contacts could help end the crisis.

But Blair also warned that he may be forced to take "tougher decisions" if the naval personnel are not freed, while Iran's vice-president reiterated that London must admit they were in Iranian territorial waters when seized.

"The next 48 hours will be fairly critical," Blair told Glasgow-based Real Radio, while cautiously welcoming comments by top Iranian national security official Ali Larijani, who on Monday underlined the need for a diplomatic solution.

"I've read the transcripts of the interview (Larijani) gave and that seems to offer some prospect but the most important thing is to get these people back," he said, referring to the Iranian's comments in a television interview.

In Tehran, senior officials appeared to be taking a more conciliatory tone over the 14 men and one woman who were seized in the northern Gulf on March 23 and accused of trespassing in Iranian waters.

"London has changed its attitude for several days now and is acting on the basis of negotiations," Vice President Parviz Davoudi told reporters in the southern city of Bushehr where he was opening a new installation at Iran's first nuclear power station.

But he warned: "London must give guarantees and say that there was a violation and there will be no other errors in the future. I think that the problem is heading in this direction and God willing will be resolved soon."

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Captive Sailors Latest Chapter In Tormented British-Iran Ties
London (AFP) April 03, 2007
The standoff over 15 British sailors held by Iran is only the latest episode in London's troubled history with Tehran, which still suspects the former colonial power of meddling in its affairs.







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