Sailors crisis: Iran for talks, Britain to consider
Apr 3, 2007 - 5:09:34 PM
Tehran/London, April 3 - A senior Iranian official suggested Tuesday that the crisis over the capture of 15 British naval personnel can be solved through negotiations.
Ali Larijani, leader of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, told state radio the issue would be resolved if the two countries 'continue this path.'
The Foreign Office in London stressed that no new negotiations had begun, but that talks started earlier were continuing with a 'more positive feel'.
The British government said earlier that it would give 'consideration' to remarks by Larijani, emphasizing Iran's desire to solve the problem by diplomatic means.
Larijani, a well-known figure in the West in his role as Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, had hinted earlier that fresh talks between his country and Britain had opened last Friday.
'The British government has started some diplomatic talks with the Iranian Foreign Ministry. They are only at the beginning,' he told state radio.
'If they continue this path they can change the situation logically ... in such a way that the issue is resolved,' Larijani added.
But British officials later said that no new negotiations had begun - although talks had been continuing since the sailors and marines were captured.
Larijani said earlier that Iran was committed to solving the crisis through diplomacy, and that putting the crew on trial was 'not a priority'.
But he insisted that the British sailors and royal marines were in Iranian waters when they were captured on March 23, something that is categorically disputed by London.
'A guarantee must be given that such violations will not be repeated,' he insisted.
Sources said London had been 'encouraged' by remarks made by Larijani, and would seek 'further information' on them.
Officials said they shared Larijani's 'desire to make early progress' and would respond later.
A Foreign Office statement said, 'There remain some differences between us, but we can confirm we share - preference for early bilateral discussions to find a diplomatic solution to this problem.'
In a surprise development, the presidential office in Tehran confirmed that a press conference by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which had been scheduled to take place later in the day and was expected to focus on the diplomatic row, was postponed to Wednesday.
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