updated 6/19/2007 4:39:33 PM ET 2007-06-19T20:39:33

No single error led to the capture of 15 sailors and marines by Iran in March, Britain's defense chief said Tuesday, but he acknowledged the ministry was wrong to let them sell their stories to the media after their release.

There was no case for disciplinary action as a result of the seizure, said Defense Secretary Des Browne.

He said an inquiry had concluded that the mariners' capture was not the result of "a single gross failing or individual human error."

It determined that the seizure of the sailors and marines by Iran's Revolutionary Guard resulted from "the coming together of a series of vulnerabilities."

Browne presented the findings to British lawmakers Tuesday, but the full report by retired Lt. Gen. Sir Rob Fulton will not be released because it is classified and contains tactical military information.

"The central lesson is that we must improve our ability to identify and assess the risks that this complex environment generates, and to train and posture our forces accordingly," Browne told lawmakers.

Adm. Jonathon Band said the Royal Navy would learn from the capture.

"The navy is keen to repair any dent as quickly as possible," he said. "We will recover from this. I accept it was a bad day."

Operational, media changes
The inquiry recommends that specialist teams should be deployed for boarding operations, when military personnel search ships for contraband and weapons. It also recommends further training for those teams, which Browne said was already being carried out.

A second inquiry, into the ministry's handling of the media following the capture, also recommended changes.

Conducted by Tony Hall, the British Broadcasting Corp.'s former director of news and current affairs, the second report slammed the ministry for allowing the seized sailors and marines to sell their stories to the media.

Normally, serving military personnel are not allowed to take payment from media organizations. At the time, defense officials cited exceptional circumstances.

"I acknowledge this failing was my responsibility," Browne said.

Hall's inquiry recommended that media payments "to serving military or civilian personnel, for talking about their work, should simply not be allowed."

The seven sailors and eight marines were captured in late March by members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard and released nearly two weeks later.

Warm welcome turned cold
The British sailors and marines were searching a merchant ship when they and their two inflatable boats were intercepted by Iranian vessels near the disputed Shatt al-Arab waterway, U.S. and British officials said.

Iran claimed the British had strayed into its territorial waters, a charge Britain denied.

During the crew's captivity, Britain accused Iran of using the group for propaganda, by putting them on Iranian TV in appearances in which they "admitted" trespassing in Tehran's waters. They were eventually freed by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who called their release a gift to Britain.

They returned home to a warm welcome — but public feeling quickly turned frosty when it was announced the captives would be allowed to sell their stories to Britain's tabloid newspapers.

The parallel inquiries were ordered by Browne.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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