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Last Updated: Monday, 9 April 2007, 14:38 GMT 15:38 UK
Iran stories sale criticism grows
Faye Turney and family
Faye Turney is one of two naval personnel held to sell a story
The head of the Army, General Sir Richard Dannat, is understood to have banned all soldiers from selling their stories to the media.

It comes as criticism mounts over the decision to allow the 15 Royal Navy personnel held in Iran to sell stories.

Former Army commander Major General Patrick Cordingley told the BBC of the alleged ban, which the Ministry of Defence is yet to comment on.

The Royal Navy said it felt it was "appropriate" for stories to be sold.

Maj Gen Cordingley, commander of the Desert Rats during the 1991 Gulf War, said it was "unfortunate" that the MoD was "using" the Royal Navy personnel as "a propaganda tool".

He said he had been encouraged to hear that the head of the Army had sent out an order to say he would not allow Army personnel to do the same.

These were exceptional circumstances - there has been a lot of pressure on these individuals and on the families
Captain Mark Windsor
Royal Navy Spokesman

"Clearly he disapproved and was making clear this was not going to happen in his force," said the former Army commander.

Lord Heseltine, the former deputy prime minister and defence secretary, has called for an inquiry into the decision to allow the sale of stories.

The father of Lance Corporal Thomas Keys - a British military policeman killed in Iraq in 2003 - said he found it "offensive" that the MoD allowed the Royal Navy crew to speak out, but prevented his son's colleagues from talking.

Reg Keys said: "When my son died, his colleagues were not allowed to speak to their families about it, let alone the press.

'Offensive' propaganda

"It seems to me that it is selective. If the story aids the government in their propaganda against the Iranians, they will allow people to speak, but if it is embarrassing to the government or the Ministry of Defence, you are not allowed to."

He accused the government of using the crew "for spin".

"I find that offensive," he added.

Meanwhile, Rose Gentle, whose 19-year-old son Gordon was killed by a roadside bomb in Basra, said the timing of the stories was insensitive.

She said: "I don't think they should actually sell their stories just now, because there are families waiting on the release of their loved ones' bodies that have just been killed in Iraq.

"I think the Ministry of Defence have not really handled it very well. They've sort of put these young lads and that young lady up for show. They're straight back off that aeroplane. They should have had time to think seriously what they want."

Right to reply

However, the Royal Navy has defended its actions.

Royal Navy spokesman Captain Mark Windsor said a great deal of thought had gone into the decision, adding that after "all the factors" had been considered "we decided it was the appropriate thing to do".

Lieutenant Felix Carman, who was among those held, has said he finds it "unsavoury" that his fellow captives are being paid to tell their story.

However, he said the public should not begrudge "anything that clarified any issues for the public and shows exactly how bad the ordeal was".

Similarly, Douglas Young, the chairman of the British Armed Forces Federation, told the BBC he also felt some unease about the payments involved, but stressed that it was fair to allow them a right to reply.

"There has been a lot of criticism of the MoD for there having been a prepared statement and so on, propaganda, and the only way of making clear it's not propaganda is allow people just to tell their own story their own way," he said.


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