Iran demands British confession

Tehran to allow visits to seized sailors but says UK must "admit mistake" to end crisis.

    Iran backtracked on a statement that Faye Turney would be freed on Wednesday or Thursday [AFP]
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    Iran-Britain standoff escalates

    "Admitting the mistake will facilitate a solution to the problem,'' he said late on Wednesday.
     
    It was the first time that Iran has publicly suggested a way to resolve the crisis.
     
    Britain maintains that its troops were in Iraqi waters when they were ambushed, and released documents on Wednesday to back up the claim.
     
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    Mottaki also said that Tehran had agreed to allow British officials to meet the captured sailors.
     
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    "We have accepted that [British request], there is no problem. Measures are under way. They can meet them," he said.
     
    That concession did not appear to assuage British outrage.
     
    Tony Blair, the prime minister, told parliament on Wednesday that "there was no justification whatever ... for their detention, 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 its total isolation on this issue," he said.
     
    "Admitting the mistake will facilitate a solution to the problem''

    Manouchehr Mottaki, Iran foreign minister

    Mottaki also appeared to backtrack on an earlier statement that Faye Turney, the only female among the 15 sailors captured, would be freed on Wednesday or Thursday, saying instead that Iran would look into releasing her "as soon as possible".
     
    He said earlier reports that he had said she could be freed on Wednesday or Thursday were incorrect, saying: "I was probably misquoted."
     
    On Wednesday, Mottaki had said on the sidelines of an Arab summit in Saudi Arabia: "Today or tomorrow, the lady will be released."
     
    But whether by Thursday or "soon", the British foreign ministry said that was "not good enough", repeating a call for the release of all 15 crew members.
     
    "Obviously the release of one person, one of the military personnel and not the others, is not good enough," a ministry spokesman said.
     
    Britain will seek a UN Security Council endorsement of a statement on Thursday that would "deplore" Iran's detention of 15 of its sailors, according to a draft text.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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