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Iran Considers Charges Against British Navy Personnel


Iran says it is considering charging 15 detained British sailors and marines with illegally entering Iranian waters.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki made that remark Sunday in New York.

Mottaki also spoke by phone Sunday with British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, who reiterated London's position that the British Navy personnel were operating in Iraqi waters when they were captured on Friday.

The British Foreign Office also said Beckett called for the safe return of the 15 detainees and asked that British diplomats be allowed to meet with them.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Sunday that Iran's detention of the British sailors and marines is "unjustified and wrong." Mr. Blair said the quicker the issue is resolved, the easier it will be for everyone.

Iran's navy detained the crew on Friday after the British conducted a routine inspection of a merchant ship in the Shatt al-Arab waterway between Iran and Iraq.

Iran says the British detainees confessed to illegally entering Iranian waters. Iranian military officials say they are in good health and are being held in Tehran.

Britain and the European Union are demanding Iran free the 14 men and one woman immediately.

Three years ago, Iranian forces seized six British marines and two sailors in the same area. They were released three days later.

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