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British Official: London Shares Iran's Preference for Direct Talks on Captured Sailors

02 April 2007

A British official says London shares Tehran's preference for early bilateral discussions to resolve the case of 15 captured British sailors seized by Iran in the Gulf.

The foreign office spokeswoman, referring to comments Monday by Iran's national security chief Ali Larijani, said there are differences between Larijani and the British government but that Britain also favors a diplomatic solution to the problem.

The spokeswoman said London will follow up with Iranian officials on Tuesday.

Larijani told British television Monday that he believes the situation can be resolved diplomatically.

Earlier, Iranian media said all the British sailors and marines had confessed to illegally entering Iranian waters.

Britain says its personnel were in Iraqi waters when they were seized March 23.

A spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair said today that Britain's demand for the detainees' unconditional release has not changed

British defense chief Des Browne says London is communicating with Iran directly in an effort to gain the captives' release.

About 200 Iranian students staged a protest outside the British Embassy in Tehran Sunday over the 15 Britons' alleged violation of Iranian waters. The students threw rocks and firecrackers at the building. There were no reports of injuries.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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