Iran says kidnapped sailors are healthy

Blair: UK hopeful on diplomatic channel, but will move to a "different phase."

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March 27, 2007 10:58
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Iran said Tuesday the 15 detained British sailors and marines it holds are healthy and are being treated in a humane fashion. It said the one woman sailor had been given privacy. "They are in completely good health. Rest assured that they have been treated with humanitarian and moral behavior," Mohammad Ali Hosseini, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, told The Associated Press. Hosseini said the only woman sailor among the group enjoyed complete privacy. "Definitely all ethics have been observed," he said. The official did not say where the marines were being kept and reiterated that their case is under investigation. "The case should follow procedures," Hosseini said. "Media hyperbole will not help [speed things up.]" Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Tuesday that Britain hopes that diplomacy will win the release of the captives, but was prepared to move to a "different phase" if not. Britain and the United States have said the sailors and marines were intercepted Friday just after they completed a search of a civilian vessel in the Iraqi part of the Shatt al-Arab waterway, where the border with Iran has historically been disputed. "I hope we manage to get them [the Iranian government] to realize they have to release them," Blair said in an interview with GMTV. "If not, then this will move into a different phase." Asked what that meant, Blair said: "Well, we will just have to see, but what they should understand is that we cannot have a situation where our servicemen and women are seized when actually they are in Iraqi waters under a UN mandate, patrolling perfectly rightly and in accordance with that mandate, and then effectively captured and taken to Iran." Blair said his primary concern was the welfare of the British sailors and Marines. "What we are trying to do at the moment is to pursue this through the diplomatic channels and make the Iranian government understand these people have to be released and that there is absolutely no justification whatever for holding them." Also, new details emerged Tuesday of the incident that led Iran to seize and question the British sailors and marines, who, it contends, entered Iranian waters illegally, even as Britain and Iran continued to dispute where the group was at the time.


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