He also said that he hoped the Iranians "understood how fundamental an issue this is for the British government."
 
UN sanctions
 
The soldiers' capture comes soon after the UN decided to impose new sanctions aimed at forcing Tehran to halt its nuclear programme.
 

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The EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, said he was seeking immediate talks with Iran's leading negotiator, Ali Larijani, and also voiced concerns at the fate of the captured navy personnel.
 
Solana issued a statement on Saturday night, immediately after the UN resolution was passed in New York, that confirmed the continued "twin track" approach by the Europeans, US and other world powers.

 

That involves gradually imposing tougher sanctions if Iran fails to halt uranium enrichment but offering negotiations on economic and political advantages for Iran if it falls into line.

 

"We want to be as generous as possible," Solana said.

 

The sanctions, approved unanimously by the Security Council, include banning Iranian arms exports and freezing the assets of 28 people and organisations involved in Iran's nuclear and missile programmes.

 

Iran says its nuclear programme is aimed at peaceful uses such as producing electricity, but the US and Europeans fear it could be used to make nuclear weapons.

 

Immediate release

 

Meanwhile, Britain's ambassador to Tehran, has asked to see the soldiers and demanded that they be released.

 

Geoffrey Adams met foreign ministry officials after his return to Iran, a British diplomat told AFP.

  

"He asked them for information about where the 15 British sailors are being detained and the possibility of meeting them," he said.

 

"He also demanded their immediate release."

  

However, the Iranian officials did not say where the Britons were, the diplomat said.

 

Iran said on Saturday that the 15 had admitted to violating its territorial waters.

 

The country's semi-official Fars news agency also reported on Saturday that the 15 sailors and marines had been transferred to Tehran but this has not been independently confirmed.

Source: Agencies