US President George W. Bush on Saturday called for the release of 15 British sailors and marines being held by Iran, calling their capture by Teheran "inexcusable behavior."
"Iran must give back the hostages," Bush said. "They're innocent, they did nothing wrong, and they were summarily plucked out of waters."
The comments on the captured Britons were the first from Bush, as Washington has taken a low-key approach so far out of concern that more robust intervention might aggravate the situation and shake international resolve on Iran's nuclear program.
Bush did not answer a question about whether the US would react militarily if those captured had been American. With the crisis in its second week, the president said he supports British Prime Minister Tony Blair's efforts to find a diplomatic resolution.