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Britain freezes contacts with Iran until sailors release

RIA Novosti

28/03/2007 17:47 LONDON, March 28 (RIA Novosti) - Britain has frozen all official bilateral contacts with Iran until all of its 15 detained sailors have been released, the British foreign secretary said Wednesday.

The British Ministry of Defense has received information proving that 15 navy personnel were 1.7 nautical miles (3.1 kilometers) inside Iraqi waters when they were seized last Friday.

British Vice Admiral Charles Style said the Ministry of Defense "unambiguously contested" Iran's claims that the Royal Navy personnel had strayed into Iranian waters.

Last Sunday Iran submitted data to the British Defense Ministry which said the British sailors, with one woman among them, had been in Iraqi waters.

Style said the seizure was "unacceptable, wrong and illegal."

The British Ministry of Defense said Iran detained 15 Royal Navy sailors and marines from the HMS Cornwall in Iraqi territorial waters, which in accordance with a UN Security Council mandate under Resolution 1723 was inspecting ships in the Persian Gulf.

Following Britain's claims Iran's embassy in London issued a statement in which it said the sailors and marines had been 0.5 km inside Iranian waters at the time.

Iran's Foreign Ministry accused the Royal Navy of illegally entering Iranian territorial waters.

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