Blair Presses Iran to Free Military Personnel

British Prime Minister Tony Blair says sanctions against Iran will be tightened because 15 British sailors and marines accused of straying into Iranian waters have not been released. Blair says it is time to increase "diplomatic and international pressure."

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

We're tracking developments today in the story of 15 British sailors and marines seized by Iran. These are British Navy personnel picked up last week in a waterway that forms the border between Iran and Iraq. And one question is which side of the border they were on. British officials say they had just finished a routine search of a merchant ship, a search sanctioned by a U.N. mandate. Iran says the British crew was operating illegally in Iranian waters.

Today, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Britain would tightened sanctions against Iran.

Prime Minister TONY BLAIR (United Kingdom): We had hoped to see their immediate release. This has not happened. It is now time to ratchet up the diplomatic and international pressure in order to make sure that the Iranian government understands their total isolation on this issue.

INSKEEP: That's British Prime Minister Tony Blair in the House of Commons. Now, earlier the British Defense Ministry presented evidence that it says shows the British sailors and marines were 1.7 nautical miles within Iraqi waters when they were seized, which would be a legitimate place for them to be. Iran tells a different story, saying the British were half a mile inside Iranian waters.

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