TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday that Iran would free the 15 detained British sailors and marines as a gift to the British people.
He pardoned the sailors and announced they would be released following a news conference at which he pinned a medal on the chest of the Iranian coast guard commander who intercepted the sailors and marines in the northern Gulf on March 23.
Ahmadinejad said Iran will never accept trespassing in its territorial waters.
"On behalf of the great Iranian people, I want to thank the Iranian coast guard who courageously defended and captured those who violated their territorial waters," he said.
"We are sorry that British troops remain in Iraq and their sailors are being arrested in Iran," Ahmadinejad said.
He criticized Britain for deploying Leading Seaman Faye Turney, one of the 15 detainees, in the Gulf, pointing out that she is a woman with a child.
"How can you justify seeing a mother away from her home, her children? Why don't they respect family values in the West?" he asked of the British government.