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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 June 2007, 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK
Timeline: Row over sailors' stories
A timeline of key events over whether naval personnel captured by Iran and then freed earlier this month should have sold their stories to the press.

Here are the key developments in the row.

19 JUNE

Defence Secretary Des Browne announces that armed forces personnel will be banned from selling their stories in future.

The decision was revealed to MPs during the outlining of the results of two inquiries into the capture of the Navy personnel by Iran.

Mr Browne told MPs no one person was to blame for the capture of the sailors and marines in March, but there had been a "series of vulnerabilities".

The decision to allow two sailors to sell their stories was a "collective failure of judgement", he said.

23 MAY

Foreign Office minister Lord Triesman says it was a "significant mistake" to allow the sailors to sell their stories.

His comments were made while he was giving evidence to the Commons foreign affairs committee about the diplomatic efforts to free the sailors who were seized in the Gulf.

He said any future negotiations could be prejudiced by "unhelpful" conduct from the past.

16 APRIL

Defence Secretary Des Browne apologises for not blocking the sale of stories by sailors freed by Iran, telling MPs he "profoundly regretted" the "mistake" and any damage done to the reputation of UK armed forces.

He also announces an inquiry into the decision and also a separate probe into how the sailors came to be captured by Iran.

15 APRIL

The sailors detained by Iran
The sailors were flown back to the UK on 5 April

Tory leader David Cameron says Defence Secretary Des Browne may have to resign unless he can show the armed forces have confidence in him.

He tells the BBC Mr Browne had to give a "full account" of why sailors held by Iran were able to sell their stories.

The Lib Dems said Mr Browne had made a "terrible mistake", but Home Secretary John Reid called him "courageous to say we got this thing wrong".

The defence secretary is due to report to the Commons on Monday.

14 APRIL

Downing Street says it will not engage in a "witch hunt" against those responsible for allowing the navy crew freed by Iran to sell their stories.

About 3,000 people sign a petition on the Downing Street website calling for the "naming and sacking" of whoever authorised the sales.

13 APRIL

The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) says it offered to help the Ministry of Defence deal with media interest in the 15 service personnel held by Iran.

But the watchdog says despite the offer they heard nothing back from the MoD.

12 APRIL

Downing Street flatly denies any role in the decision to allow the navy crew freed by Iran to sell their stories to media.

No 10 also denies helping them negotiate with media outlets interested in their stories.

11 APRIL

Des Browne
Defence Secretary Des Browne said "the buck stops here"

Defence Secretary Des Browne says he takes full responsibility for the decision which allowed the 15 sailors and marines held by the Iranians to sell their stories.

Mr Browne, speaking for the first time since the row, says with hindsight he could have done things differently and says "ultimately, the buck stops here".

Prime Minister Tony Blair adds that in "in hindsight" the navy's decision to allow sailors held captive in Iran to sell their stories to the media was not a "good idea".

10 APRIL

The Iranian military says it will soon release a film documenting the arrest, interrogation and statements by UK sailors held in Iran for two weeks.

The government is accused of harming the Royal Navy's reputation by allowing sailors to sell stories of their ordeal.

Shadow defence secretary Liam Fox says the decision has done "a great deal of damage" and urged ministers to "come clean".

9 APRIL

Iranian footage of seized crew
Some of the images released of the crew were aired without sound

The grandfather of a Devon soldier killed in Iraq says he does not think the navy crew freed from captivity in Iran should be paid for their stories.

David Godfrey, from Cullompton, whose 21-year-old grandson Daniel Coffey was shot, calls the move "misguided".

8 APRIL

Opposition MPs say allowing the navy personnel to sell their stories is undignified, while relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq voice their opposition.

Leading Seaman Faye Turney is rumoured to be receive a six-figure sum for her story in the Sun newspaper and interview with ITV 1's Tonight with Trevor Macdonald on 9 April.

7 APRIL

Several newspapers react critically to the navy's decision to allow the sailors to sell their story. The Sunday Times says the decision has angered relatives of soldiers killed or injured in Iraq.

It quotes a former British commander as saying the freed military personnel are behaving like reality TV contestants.

6 APRIL

The Royal Navy's chief, First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Jonathon Band, defends the actions of 15 British personnel seized by Iran and UK operations in the Gulf, after criticism they gave up too easily.

The crew hold a press conference and two read out a prepared statement to reporters at the Royal Marines Barracks at Chivenor, in north Devon.

5 APRIL

Faye Turney, Nathan Summers and a colleague in a video released by Iran
Nathan Summers (left) was the second crew member interviewed

The 15 personnel are flown to the UK on a British Airways flight to Heathrow.

After arriving back in the UK, the crew members pose for photographs and are then taken in helicopters to a Royal Marines base in Devon where they are reunited with their families.

In a joint statement released following emotional scenes at the base in Devon, the crew say being home is a "dream come true".

4 APRIL

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says the Royal Navy personnel will be freed as a "gift" to the UK.

2 APRIL

Ali Larijani, of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, tells Channel 4 News he wants a diplomatic solution to the crisis. The UK says it is studying his comments, but "shares" that desire.

1 APRIL

Iranian state television airs new footage of two of the Royal Navy personnel who were captured.

They are shown separately, standing in front of a chart of the northern Gulf where the sailors and marines were seized.

31 MARCH

HMS Cornwall
The 15 were based on HMS Cornwall

In a speech, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad criticises Britain's response to the crisis, describing the UK as "arrogant" for failing to apologise.

US President George W Bush criticises Iran's seizure of the Royal Navy personnel.

30 MARCH

Iranian TV broadcasts an interview with a second crewman, Nathan Summers, who apologises for "trespassing" in Iranian waters.

29 MARCH

Iran releases video footage which it says shows the British crew being seized in Iranian waters. Alongside is a military briefing showing charts which pinpoint their supposed location.

28 MARCH

Iranian state television broadcasts an interview with Faye Turney and footage of the servicemen. They had "obviously" trespassed but their captors had been friendly, she says.

The Royal Navy presents GPS evidence it says proves the group were 1.7 nautical miles inside Iraqi waters when they were seized.

27 MARCH

UK Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett calls for the group's "speedy return" as she speaks to her Iranian counterpart for a second time.

26 MARCH

The BBC is told the group are being held in Tehran, where Iran says they are being treated humanely.

25 MARCH

Hardliners around Iran's president demand the 15 go on trial - while Iraq's foreign minister joins those urging the Iranians to free the 15 crew.

23 MARCH

Fifteen Royal Navy sailors and Marines from HMS Cornwall are seized by Iranian warships after searching a cargo boat in the Gulf.

Iranian state television reports the Britons are being held after entering Iranian waters, but the UK insists the group were within Iraqi boundaries.




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