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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 April 2007, 16:14 GMT 17:14 UK
Navy resumes Gulf ship missions
Captured crew arriving in the UK
The Royal Navy personnel were held by Iran for 13 days
The Royal Navy has resumed boarding operations in the northern Gulf for the first time since the capture of its personnel by Iran.

The missions were suspended after 15 UK sailors and marines were detained by Iranian forces in March.

Meanwhile, former BBC news and current affairs chief Tony Hall will lead the inquiry into the MoD's decision to let the captives sell their stories.

Defence Secretary Des Browne made both announcements in written statements.

The 15 British service personnel were searching a cargo boat in the Gulf when they were captured over a boundary dispute.

'Minimised risk'

Mr Browne said in a Commons statement: "I am pleased to announce that UK forces will today recommence boarding operations in the Gulf that were suspended following the seizure of Royal Navy and Royal Marines personnel by the Iranians on 23 March 2007.

"Pending the results of the inquiries set up to identify any lessons we can learn from this incident, we have taken measures, in line with the findings of the initial reviews of procedures, to ensure the risk to boarding operations is minimised.

"This will involve an incremental return to full boarding operations in all areas.

"This approach in no way affects overall coalition naval operations in the Gulf."

Shadow defence secretary Liam Fox also welcomed the move.

Protecting Iraq's oil infrastructure and the searching of merchant vessels to stem the smuggling of illegal weapons into Iraq has to be one of our key priorities
Liam Fox
Shadow defence secretary

He claimed the cessation of boarding parties had sent out "completely the wrong message" and smacked of "a lack of resolve" by the UK.

Mr Fox added: "Protecting Iraq's oil infrastructure and the searching of merchant vessels to stem the smuggling of illegal weapons into Iraq has to be one of our key priorities."

'Media access' review

Meanwhile, the defence secretary also revealed more details about an inquiry into his department's media strategy.

Faye Turney
Faye Turney sold her story after being released by the Iranians

"I have asked a small team to conduct a review of media access to individual personnel involved in operations, particularly in such high profile incidents," he said.

Mr Browne said the inquiry into his department's media strategy the incident would be led by Mr Hall, who is now chief executive of the Royal Opera House.

Other members of his inquiry are Patrick Turner, a senior MoD civil servant, and Major General Andrew Stewart, the Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (Policy) in the MoD.

The inquiry was launched after the decision to allow the former detainees to sell their stories was revoked.

A separate inquiry into operational issues surrounding the capture is being led by Lieutenant General Rob Fulton, the Governor of Gibraltar and a former Royal Marines officer, he said.

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