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Iran TV Shows British Sailors as Britain Freezes Bilateral Ties with Iran


Iran has shown television footage of some of the 15 British sailors detained by Iranian forces last Friday and hints they could be released soon. Earlier in the day, Britain announced it is freezing all bilateral business with Iran except efforts to gain the release of the naval personnel. VOA's Sonja Pace reports from London.

Pictures on Iranian television show the British sailors eating a meal. They also show an interview with the only woman in the group, Faye Turney, who is wearing a head scarf and smoking a cigarette. She is quoted talking about their arrest.

"I was arrested Friday, the 23rd of March," she said. "Obviously, we trespassed into their waters. They were very friendly, very hospitable … they explained to us why we'd been arrested, there was no aggression, no hurt, no harm."

The pictures seem to show that the group was safe and well. However, in London the Foreign Office called the video "completely unacceptable."

The television footage came amid stepped-up efforts by Britain to pressure Iran to release the naval crew.

British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett told the House of Commons Wednesday the government would focus all its bilateral efforts with Iran on gaining the release of the British sailors. "We will therefore be imposing a freeze on all other official bilateral business with Iran until this situation is resolved," she said.

Earlier in the day, Vice Admiral Charles Style presented maps and GPS coordinates of the British patrol boats as well as the merchant vessel the British personnel had just finished searching when they were seized by Iranian Revolutionary Guards. He said the coordinates could leave no doubt.

"The position places her 1.7 nautical miles inside Iraqi territorial waters," he said.

Iran insists the patrol boats were in Iranian waters.

Speaking in parliament Wednesday, Prime Minister Tony Blair said there was no justification for the detention of the British sailors.

"It was completely unacceptable, wrong and illegal. We had hoped to see their immediate release. This has not happened. It is now time to ratchet up the diplomatic and international pressure in order to make sure the Iranian government understands their total isolation on this issue," he said.

Speaking on the sidelines of an Arab summit in Saudi Arabia, Iran's foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, said the issue can be resolved, and he said Faye Turney, in particular would be released soon.

"The subject is under consideration and I think it will be solved based on rules and regulations. But, … the lady will be released soon," he said.

The Iranians have said the British naval personnel are being treated well.