Thursday, March 29, 2007

Iran: Britain must admit navy trespassed

Iran's foreign minister said Wednesday that Britain must admit that its 15 sailors and marines entered Iranian waters in order to resolve a standoff over their capture by Iranian authorities.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki's announcement came on a day of escalating tensions, highlighted by an Iranian video of the detained Britons that showed the only woman captive saying her group had "trespassed" in Iranian waters. Britain angrily denounced the video as unacceptable and froze most dealings with the mideast nation.

"First they have to admit that they have made a mistake. Admitting the mistake will facilitate a solution to the problem," Mottaki told The Associated Press in an interview in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. "But unfortunately the British have not admitted their mistake."

Mottaki also backed off a prediction that the female sailor, Faye Turney, could be freed Wednesday or Thursday, but said Tehran agreed to allow British officials to meet with service personnel.

His comments were the first confirmation that Iran agreed to a British request for a consular visit with the crew, though he did not specify when. Iran has not said where the 15 are being held.

"We have accepted that (the British request), there is no problem. Measures are underway (to arrange meeting.) They can meet them," he said.

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