[A-List] New York Times Changes Its Article about Iran's Release of British Sailors
critical.montages at gmail.com
Fri Apr 6 12:23:22 MDT 2007
Initially, the following article was published by the New York Times
but since then the NYT has changed the article at this URL, apparently
retiring the original text from its Web site altogether. But the
original text is still available at:
Perhaps, the NYT editor regarded the original article as too
sympathetic to Iran. -- Yoshie
April 4, 2007
Iran to Release 15 Britons Held Since March 23
By SARAH LYALL and CHRISTINE HAUSER
LONDON, April 4 – Iran's president said today that the country had
"pardoned" and would release the 15 British sailors and marines who
have been held there for nearly two weeks.
The remarks of the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, appeared to bring a
swift resolution to a crisis that began on March 23, when Iranian
coast guards seized the 15 Britons in the northern Persian Gulf,
saying they had trespassed on Iranian territorial waters.
"They are free after this meeting, and can go back to their families,"
he said at a news conference in Tehran.
He also went out of his way to praise the coast guards responsible for
seizing the Britons, interrupting his remarks to pin a medal on the
chest of the coast guard commander.
"On behalf of the great Iranian people, I want to thank the Iranian
Coast Guard who courageously defended and captured those who violated
their territorial waters," he said.
The Britons were seized at gunpoint in disputed waters in the northern
The release of the sailors and the comments made today by the Iranian
president and the British prime minister Tony Blair did nothing to
indicate that the issue of where the naval personnel were captured had
Mr. Ahmadinejad said that the captives had all confessed to
trespassing in Iranian waters and that Iran had "every right" to put
them on trial, but had decided not to. "I want to give them as a
present to the British people, to see that they are free," he said.
Mr. Ahmadinejad said the British government had sent a letter to the
Iranian foreign ministry that "said that this will not happen
again.... Of course, this decision was not related to that letter.
When we think of Islamic kindness, we are not expecting anything in
Britain has argued that the captives were in Iraqi waters on a routine
anti-smuggling patrol at the invitation of the Iraqi government and
the United Nations.
"We have taken a measured approach, firm but calm, not negotiating but
not confronting either," Mr. Blair said after the announcement. He
thanked Britain's allies in Europe and the United Nations Security
Council "and also our friends and allies in the region who played
Mr. Blair also addressed the Iranian people in remarks that appeared
to carefully avoid thanking the Iranian government for the release of
the naval personnel.
"And to the Iranian people I would simply say this: we bear you no ill
will. On the contrary, we respect Iran as an ancient civilization, as
a nation with a proud and dignified history," Mr. Blair said. "And the
disagreements that we have with your government we wish to resolve
peacefully through dialogue. I hope, as I have always hoped, that in
the future we are able to do so."
The two sides also did not link the release of the Britons to the
release on Tuesday of an Iranian diplomat who had been in detention
for two months in Iraq.
Five other Iranians are being detained by the United States in Iraq,
and Mr. Ahmadinejad was asked today whether there was any connection.
"Our government has pardoned them, it is a gift from our people," said
Mr. Ahmadinejad. "It has nothing to do with this analysis. If we were
to move forward on that basis things would have looked different. We
approached the subject on a humanitarian basis. It was a unilateral
decision on our end."
He also criticized Britain for its involvement in the war in Iraq. "We
are sorry that British troops remain in Iraq and their sailors are
being arrested in Iran," the president said.
In a ceremony after the news conference, Mr. Ahmadinejad was shown on
live television greeting the British captives, who were wearing suits.
The president said the release was being made on the occasion of the
"birthday of the great Prophet of Islam," in the words of the
Mr. Ahmadinejad wished them success.
"Thank you very much," said one.
"We are very grateful for your forgiveness" said another. "We would
like to thank yourself and the Iranian people."
Another said: "I am fine thank you," to the president. "Your people
have been very kind to us and I appreciate that very much."
The British government said no logistics had yet been worked out for
the captured sailors' release. But Iranian media reported that they
would fly home on Thursday.
On Tuesday, Mr. Blair had said that the next 48 hours would be "fairly
critical" in resolving the dispute.
"All the way through this, we've had two tracks on this," Mr. Blair
had said in an interview with Real Radio in Glasgow. "One is to make
sure Iran understands that the pressure is there available to us if
this thing has to be hard and tough and long."
The other option is a peaceful resolution, the prime minister had
said. "We're not looking for confrontation over this," he had said.
"Actually, the most important thing is to get the people back safe and
sound, and if they want to resolve this in a diplomatic way, the door
Mr. Blair had said that comments made by Ali Larijani, a top Iranian
security official, on British television on Monday that "there is no
need for a trial" and that "this issue should be resolved bilaterally"
offered some prospect of a way to proceed. "But we need to hear from
them direct," the prime minister had said, referring to the Iranians.
During the captivity, Iran released photographs or video images of
several of the captives, looking relaxed and smiling, through the
state news agency. Some showed them playing chess or eating.
The Iranian president said today that he asks s that Mr. Blair not put
the captive sailors and marines on trial for admitting in the
videotaped statements that they had trespassed in Iranian waters.
Other countries "must recognize that Iran will protect its right and
its land and as it did in the past it will in the future," Mr.
Ahmadinejad said. "We are sorry that the British troops remain in Iraq
and their sailors are being arrested in Iran. We are sorry of this
He also questioned why one of the sailors was a mother. "Why is it
that the most difficult missions, naval inspections, be given to a
mother, who is carrying out a mission thousands of miles away from her
child?" he said.
While remarks from Iran seemed softer in recent days, throughout the
dispute its statements veered between conciliatory and angry, and it
was hard to get a clear sense of what the government was thinking — or
indeed whether the government was speaking with one voice.
Mr. Ahmadinejad's news conference today came after he had postponed
one on Tuesday.
President Bush previously described the Iranian seizure of British
military personnel as "indefensible" and said that he, too, hoped to
see the situation resolved peacefully. But he said Britain should not
bargain for the captives' release.
Today, President Bush also welcomed the news, said Gordon D. Johndroe,
a National Security Council spokesman.
Sarah Lyall reported from London and Christine Hauser reported from
New York. Jon Elsen contributed from New York.
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