Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

BROWNE GROVELS TO SAVE HIS NECK; Defence Minister Forced into Apology over Hostages Fiasco

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

BROWNE GROVELS TO SAVE HIS NECK; Defence Minister Forced into Apology over Hostages Fiasco

Article excerpt

DES BROWNE was forced to eat humble pie this afternoon over the hostages fi asco

in an attempt to win a reprieve as Defence Secretary.

In one of the most contrite ministerial apologies heard for years, he admitted in the Commons that the reputation of the armed forces had been damaged and said bluntly: "I made a mistake." Mr Browne looked uncomfortable during his 15- minute statement that marked a change from his tone last week when he sought to blame the Royal Navy for the decision to let 15 personnel held hostage in Iran sell their stories to the media.

He said: "Let me be clear with the House. I made a mistake. I have been completely open about that.

And to the extent that what happened ... has caused Diary 14-15 Business 26-31 Life&Culture 32-39 TV people to question the hard-won reputation of the armed forces, that is something I profoundly regret." Under pressure from the Tories to use the word "sorry", Mr Browne lost his temper and spat back: "If you want me to say sorry, I am happy to say sorry." He said he had expressed regret already but had no problem with apologising in full.

Mr Browne announced two inquiries u one into the captureof the Navy personnel and the second into the decision to let them do deals with newspapers and TV.

He told the Commons that some of the 15 were

Browne should still resign, say Tories

"intent" on speaking out about what happened, because they felt they had been unfairly criticised for co-operating with their captors. That may have referred to Faye Turney who wrote letters "confessing" to breaching Iranian waters.

"The media had approached the families of the detainees while they were still being held in Iran," said the minster. "There were many offers of payment.

These approaches intensified as soon as the 15 were released, and it was clear that the pressure would soon be transferred from the families to the individuals themselves. …

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