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U.K. waiting for Russian help in releasing sailors detained by Iran

RIA Novosti

30/03/2007 19:02 MOSCOW, March 30 (RIA Novosti) - The U.K. is waiting for Russia's help in releasing British sailors and marines detained by Iran, the British Ambassador in Russia said Friday.

On March 23, the U.K. Defense Ministry announced that Iran had 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.

Anthony Brenton said after a visit to Russia's Foreign Ministry, where he met with two deputy ministers, that his country is hoping for support from Russia, because the U.K. would also be helpful if Russia ever found itself in a similar situation.

Brenton said Russia had great deal of influence with Iran, adding that he hoped that leverage would be used to win the release of the detained Britons.

The Iranian news agency IRNA said Friday a second British sailor, one of 15 detained last Friday in the Persian Gulf by Iranian authorities, had confessed to illegally entering Iranian territorial waters.

The sailor appeared on Iran's Arabic-language television program Al-Alam and apologized for entering Iranian waters "without permission."

The Iranian Embassy in London issued a statement in which it said the sailors and marines had been 0.5 kilometers (0.3 miles) inside Iranian waters at the time.

Iranian television earlier broadcast footage of the detention and showed a message from the only female sailor, Faye Turney, 26, acknowledging the violation of Iran's sea border and urging the British authorities to withdraw their troops from Iraq.

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

In response, London froze official bilateral official contacts, suspended the issuance of visas to Iranian officials and referred the situation to the UN Security Council Wednesday.

The Security Council expressed serious concern over the detention of the sailors, and urged the Iranian leadership to allow British diplomats to visit the detainees.

Russia, a veto-wielding member in the 15-nation UN Security Council, blocked any tougher statements, including the immediate release of the sailors.

The Russian Foreign Ministry's official spokesman, Mikhail Kamynin, explained Moscow's veto by saying that "the facts should be examined thoroughly and without politicization" before the UN Security Council adopts any serious measures.

Iranian authorities said Tehran would ignore the Security Council's statement.

"This incident should be resolved bilaterally. Attempts by the British government to attract a third side, including the UN Security Council, will lead to nothing," the Iranian leadership said in a statement.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Thursday that London should admit the territorial violation, as it would help secure the release of the 15 sailors.

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