Chris Young/AFP/Getty Images
British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett emerge from 10 Downing Street in London to discuss the release of British detainees by Iran. Blair thanked Britain's "friends and allies in the region."
British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett emerge from 10 Downing Street in London to discuss the release of British detainees by Iran. Blair thanked Britain's "friends and allies in the region." Chris Young/AFP/Getty Images
An Iranian news agency reports that 15 detained British sailors and marines will leave Iran by plane Thursday morning. The service members were seized from their boat in the Persian Gulf on March 23.
After announcing that he was freeing the Britons, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appeared on TV shaking hands with some of them.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair says Britain bears "no ill will" toward the Iranian people over the incident.
"The disagreements we have with your government we wish to resolve peacefully," Blair said.
President Ahmadinejad called the release an Easter gift to the British people. The move, which follows several days of diplomatic efforts between Iran and Britain, was sudden: The two countries had only recently acknowledged making overtures to end the standoff.
U.S. officials welcomed the news, although Bush administration officials seemed very careful not to praise the Iranian regime.Vice President Dick Cheney, in an interview with ABC News Radio, said the release was good news. But he questioned Iran's right to take the sailors and marines into custody.
"I'm glad to know that the British sailors are apparently going to be released," Cheney said. "I think it was unfortunate that they were ever taken in the first place. There's considerable evidence that they were, in fact, in Iraqi territorial waters when this happened."
President Bush was traveling to California as details of the release came out. A spokesman traveling with him, Gordon Johndroe, would say only that British Prime Minister Tony Blair welcomed the release, and that "we share his sentiments."
With reporting by NPR's David Greene and wire services.