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Britain Offers Iran Direct Talks Over Detained Sailors


Britain says it is waiting for Iran's response to its proposal of direct bilateral talks to resolve the issue of 15 British naval personnel seized by Iran on March 23rd.

A statement from British Prime Minister Tony Blair's office late Tuesday said there have been further contacts between British and Iranian officials, including Iran's chief negotiator Ali Larijani.

The statement said Mr. Blair believes both sides share a desire for an early resolution to the standoff.

Earlier, Britain's Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said intense diplomatic efforts were continuing. But she also cautioned against expecting of a swift resolution of the case.

Meanwhile, an Iranian news agency has published new photos of the captive British sailors and marines. The photos showed them wearing track suits, seated in a group on a carpet, and smiling.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is scheduled to hold a news conference Wednesday to discuss what state media are calling the illegal entry of British forces into Iranian waters.

Britain insists its naval personnel were in Iraq's waters.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, Reuters and AP

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