The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Captives again paraded on Iran TV

Tehran, March 30 (Reuters): Iran displayed three detained British naval personnel on television today and released a letter from one saying she was being held because of “oppressive” British and US behaviour in Iraq.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said the footage of three of the 15 British captives heightened people’s disgust at the treatment of the sailors and Marines and risked isolating Tehran further — but he urged calm and patience over the crisis.

“I am writing to you as a British service person who has been sent to Iraq, sacrificed due to the intervening policies of the Bush and Blair governments,” said the third letter from sailor Faye Turney, released by Iran’s embassy in London.

London has been pushing for international condemnation but failed to get the UN Security Council to pass a strongly worded draft statement. Instead, it expressed “grave concern.”

The video showed two men in khaki uniforms and a woman in blue fatigues and a headscarf talking calmly and smiling in a room with a floral wallpaper background.

“We trespassed without permission,” said the sailor, who gave his name as Nathan Thomas Summers and said they were being treated well. “I would like to apologise for entering your waters without any permission ... I deeply apologise.”

Blair said the only possible outcome from the standoff was the release of the British personnel and that London would consult its allies over the weekend.

“I really don’t know why the Iranian regime keeps doing this. All it does is enhance people’s disgust at captured personnel being paraded and manipulated in this way,” he said.

The video release came as Britain said it was considering a note from Tehran that appeared to resemble a statement used to resolve a similar standoff in 2004 when Iran seized eight British servicemen and held them for three days. However, Britain’s foreign secretary Margaret Beckett said after the video was shown that there was nothing in the note from Iran to suggest Tehran was looking for a way out.

The letter said Iran respected the rules and principles of international law concerning the territorial integrity of states and that Britain must accept its responsibility for the consequences of any border violation.

The letter did not appear to demand an apology from Britain as several Iranian officials had previously called for.

In London, Iran’s embassy said both governments were working together closely to find a mutually acceptable solution and that it could be settled bilaterally.

In comments posted on the Iranian state broadcaster’s website, foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki, said: “Iran welcomes any constructive suggestions to solve the issue bilaterally.”

But, in the comments made during a telephone call with the Japanese foreign minister, he said Britain “should accept” their violation of Iran’s waters and reassure Iran it would not happen again.

Mottaki was quoted as saying Britain was “trying to politicise and make propaganda out of the issue, and such behaviour is not acceptable”.

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