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Second British sailor admits illegally entering Iranian waters

RIA Novosti

30/03/2007 15:18 TEHRAN, March 30 (RIA Novosti) - A second British sailor, one of 15 detained last Friday in the Persian Gulf by Iranian authorities, has confessed to illegally entering Iranian territorial waters, the Iranian news agency IRNA said Friday.

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

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.

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.

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said Friday he insists on the immediate and unconditional release of the detained sailors, calling their captivity inadmissible.

He said the problem should be resolved through talks, but that if discussions yield no result in the near future a new session of the UN Security Council would be held to discuss further steps.

The authorities of Turkey, Iran's neighbor, said they are also taking proactive measures to resolve the crisis.

Turkish media reported that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had discussed the issue with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Thursday, and that the latter promised to reconsider the release of Turney, who is married and has a small daughter.

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