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Tensions grew even more heated today in the case of the British sailors and marines captured by Iran. Iranian television ran video of the 15, including footage of the only female captive. In it she said that the British had trespassed, as she put it, into Iranian waters. The Iranians also released a letter they said she had written to her family. Earlier today, the British government presented evidence that it said proved the Royal Navy personnel were in Iraqi water when they were seized.
NPR's Rob Gifford reports from London.
ROB GIFFORD: The footage released by the Iranian government was brief. It showed pictures of the 15 sailors and marines eating a meal together and a scene of what appeared to be the British crew sitting in an Iranian boat in open waters immediately after their capture.
The only person to speak on the tape was the one woman among the 15, 26-year-old Faye Turney who was shown wearing a headscarf and smoking a cigarette.
Leading Seaman FAYE TURNEY (Royal Navy): My name is Leading Seaman Faye Turney. I come from England. I was arrested on Friday, the 23rd of March. Obviously we trespassed into their waters. They were very friendly, very hospitable, very thoughtful, nice people. They explained to us why we've been arrested. There's no aggression. They were very, very compassionate.
GIFFORD: The TV footage also showed a letter that Turney, the mother of a three-year-old girl, had written to her parents. She said she'd written to the Iranian people to apologize for the British personnel having entered Iranian waters. British Defense Secretary Des Browne responded this evening to the pictures.
Mr. DES BROWNE (British Defense Secretary): It's completely unacceptable to parade our people in this way. My whole focus is the immediate release of our people and the support that their families need at this very difficult time for them, and I'm just returning to my work now to concentrate in achieving those two objectives.
GIFFORD: The pictures were broadcast after Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, speaking on the fringes of an Arab summit in Saudi Arabia, had suggested that Leading Seaman Turney would be freed.
Mr. MANOUCHEHR MOTTAKI (Iranian Foreign Minister): Yeah, the subject is under consideration and I think it will be solved through based on rules and regulations. I think I have informed you that the lady will be released very soon.
GIFFORD: Later, Mottaki said the British government would have to accept that the 15 British sailors and marines had been arrested in Iranian waters. This morning, Britain's deputy chief of defense staff, Vice Admiral Charles Style, had laid out in detail what the British government said is proof that the sailors and marines were in Iraqi, not Iranian waters. Admiral Style gave the exact latitude and longitude where the two inflatable boats sent out from the Royal Navy warship HMS Cornwall were detained.
Vice Admiral CHARLES STYLE (Royal Navy): HMS Cornwall with her boarding party was about her legal business in Iraqi territorial waters under a United Nations Security Council resolution and with the explicit approval of the Iraqi government. The action by Iranian forces in arresting and detaining our people is unjustified and wrong.
GIFFORD: Addressing Parliament today before the video was shown, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said he would increase pressure on 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.
GIFFORD: The British government today announced a freeze on almost all bilateral contacts with Iran, with most analysts saying that military action is not even being contemplated. Tony Blair is trying to strike a balance between talking tough in public while working out a diplomatic solution in private.
Rob Gifford, NPR News, London.
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