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Blair: Next Two Days Critical in Iranian Standoff Over British Sailors

03 April 2007

British Prime Minister Tony Blair says the next two days will be critical in efforts to secure the release of 15 British sailors captured by Iran.

Mr. Blair told a Scottish radio station Tuesday, the most important thing is to get the people back safely. He also said the "door is open" if Iran wants to resolve the issue in a diplomatic way.

Iran's national security chief, Ail Larijani, said Monday he believed diplomacy could quickly resolve the issue.

A spokeswoman for the British Foreign Office responded by saying London shares Tehran's preference for early bilateral discussions to resolve the case.

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.

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 and Reuters.

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