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Military

U.K., Iran enter second day of talks on sailors' release

RIA Novosti

04/04/2007 15:57 TEHRAN, April 4 (RIA Novosti) - Tehran and London have entered the second day of negotiations on the release of 15 British naval personnel detained by Iran last month over an alleged border violation, Iranian diplomats said.

Iran detained the Royal Navy personnel March 23, citing violation of its maritime border with Iraq. Britain has insisted the servicemen were in Iraqi waters under a UN mandate to search shipping in the Gulf. The sides began negotiations Tuesday.

"Both Iran and Britain seek a diplomatic resolution to the situation with the British officers, and negotiations that began yesterday are proceeding between the ambassadors of both countries in London and Tehran," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told Iran's ISNA news agency.

Hosseini denied reports that a British delegation had arrived in Tehran for negotiations.

Iran's IRNA news agency said earlier Wednesday that Iran's Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani had discussed the issue with Sir Nigel Sheinwald, a foreign policy advisor to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in a telephone conversation Tuesday. The British Foreign Office confirmed the information.

Foreign media has quoted Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mualem as saying that Syria was mediating the Iranian-British talks, but British diplomats refused to confirm the reports.

Blair's press service said Tuesday that Britain had proposed direct bilateral negotiations to Iran, and was now waiting for a reply.

Blair said Tuesday that the next 48 hours would be critical for resolving the conflict, adding that Larijani's statement about the diplomatic option being a priority for Iran opened up some prospects. But Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett warned against expectations of a quick resolution Tuesday, adding that a great deal was happening behind the scenes.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will give a news conference later Wednesday where he is expected to provide the latest news about the negotiations and clarify Iran's position, which British media describe as unclear.

About three months before the incident, the United States detained five Iranians on suspicion of links with militants in Iraq's Kurdish-controlled north. Iranian authorities said the detainees were employees of the local Iranian consulate.



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