Beckett says Iran note shows no effort to end crisis

BREMEN, Germany (Reuters) - An Iranian diplomatic note gives no sign that Tehran is seeking a resolution to the detention of 15 British navy personnel seized in the Gulf, Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said on Friday.

In an interview with Reuters and the BBC, she declined to comment on the note in detail but said: “What I would say is that there’s nothing in the letter which suggests that the Iranians are looking for a way out of this difficult situation.

“We have been looking for a way out of it for them, for us and particularly for our service personnel from the very beginning. I wish I saw any sign that this is what Iran is trying to do,” Beckett said on the sidelines of a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in the German city of Bremen.

Asked if she wanted the other EU countries to follow Britain’s example and freeze business with Iran, she said all London wanted at the moment was a clear message from the EU.

“Obviously if this goes on, which is what we hope does not happen, there will be other discussions,” she said. “But at present, I think what we’d most like to see is a clear signal from Europe as a whole that we do not find this acceptable.”

Beckett said the continued televised confessions of the hostages was “quite appalling and completely contrary to normal international convention”.

“I’m really quite horrified and I’m afraid that it will do nothing to convince impartial public opinion of the strength of the Iranian case.”

She said Britain wanted information from Tehran on where the soldiers were being held and who is holding them, as well as British consular access to them. But Iran has so far rejected all these requests.

“This kind of event (the EU meeting) will only increase the pressure for them to be released because it’s clear they’re being used,” she added.