British officials spoke for the first time to Iran's chief international negotiator about 15 captured British sailors and marines, Prime Minister Tony Blair's office said, calling for direct bilateral talks to end the 12-day-old dispute. In a statement Tuesday, Blair's Downing Street office said "both sides share a desire for an early resolution of this issue through direct talks." Hours after Foreign Secretary Margaret cautioned against expecting a swift resolution to the crisis, Downing Street struck an upbeat note, announcing there had been "further contacts" between the two countries, including with chief negotiator Ali Larijani. "On the basis of these, the prime minister believes that both sides share a desire for an early resolution of this issue through direct talks," Blair's office said. "The prime minister remains committed to resolving this by diplomatic means. The UK has proposed direct bilateral discussions and awaits an Iranian response on when these can begin."