Iran's arrest of sailors was legitimate, says former UK envoy

IRNA
Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray Monday supported Iran's decision to arrest 15 UK marines in the Persian Gulf last week.

"In international law the Iranian government were not out of order in detaining foreign military personnel in waters to which they have a legitimate claim," Murray said, who was also a previous head of Foreign Office's maritime section, carrying out negotiations on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

"For the Royal Navy, to be interdicting shipping within the twelve mile limit of territorial seas in a region they know full well is subject to maritime boundary dispute, is unnecessarily provocative," he said.

The former envoy said that this was "especially true as apparently they were not looking for weapons but for smuggled vehicles attempting to evade car duty."
"What has the evasion of Iranian or Iraqi taxes go to do with the Royal Navy?" he questioned in comments on his webpage, set up after he was sacked from his post in 2004 after criticizing British foreign policy.

While working for the Foreign Office, Murray was also head of the UK's Embargo Surveillance Centre, analyzing Iraqi attempts to evade sanctions and providing information to UK military forces and to other governments to effect physical enforcement of the embargo.

He said that under international law, Britain would have been allowed to enter Iranian territorial waters if in "hot pursuit" of terrorists, slavers or pirates. But added "they weren't doing any of those things."
"Plainly, they were not engaged in piracy or in hostilities against Iran. The Iranians can feel content that they have demonstrated the ability to exercise effective sovereignty over the waters they claim," the former envoy said.

He criticized the "ridiculous logic" of Prime Minister Tony Blair, saying he was creating a mess that "gets us further into trouble." The Daily Mirror, which has been an outspoken opponent of the Iraq war, reminded its readers Monday that "if the UK had never joined the disastrous invasion of Iraq, the 15 would not have been put in a position where they could be seized."
In its editorial on the incident, it also said that "US threats in the recent past to launch military strikes on Iran have inflamed tensions."

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