Iran Suspends Release of U.K. Sailor Turney The U.N. Security Council has expressed "grave concern" at Iran's capture of 15 British sailors and marines last week. London wants them returned, but Iran has given mixed signals on releasing the lone female sailor. Iran says it has "suspended" the release of Faye Turney.

Iran Suspends Release of U.K. Sailor Turney

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

Britain took its case against Tehran to the UN today. London wants its 15 sailors and marines returned. They were taken by the Iranian navy last week. Iran has gone back and forth as to whether or not it will release one female sailor. She was shown on Iranian television last night.

NPR's Rob Gifford reports that footage provoked outrage when it was shown in Britain.

ROB GIFFORD: British Prime Minister Tony Blair promised yesterday to ratchet up diplomatic and international pressure. And today he followed through by doing exactly that. Blair went ahead and referred the situation to the United Nations. And in response, Iran's top national security negotiator said his government would delay its promised release of the only female British sailor in the detained group.

Speaking in Persian on Iranian radio, Ali Larijani criticized Britain's attitude.

(Soundbite of recorded Iranian radio broadcast)

Mr. ALI LARIJANI (Foreign Policy Chief, Iran): (Through translator) We even announced that preparations were underway for the release of a female member of the group. But if we face such arrogant gestures and wrong behavior, it will naturally delay the release and it will not happen.

GIFFORD: The Iranian embassy in London today released a letter from the woman captive, Leading Seaman Faye Turney, addressed to the British parliament, calling on Britain to start withdrawing its troops from Iraq. Earlier, the British government had rejected an Iranian suggestion that crisis could be resolved if Britain admitted its personnel had made a mistake and crossed into Iranian waters.

Politicians of all parties, as well as former military leaders, all supported Tony Blair's hard-line stance. Admiral Sir Alan West was, until last year, Chief of the Naval Staff.

Admiral Sir ALAN WEST (Former Chief of the Naval Staff, Royal Navy): What needs to be done quite clearly is that all of our people need to be released, the boats returned and equipment returned. And what we mustn't do is get into some stupid game, some silly game playing with these people because the initial capture of them was totally wrong and incorrect, and I think world opinion knows that, and that's where we've got to move forward to.

GIFFORD: But the silly game could become a lot more serious as it becomes more difficult for each side to back down. There was enough animosity already between the two sides as a result of the standoff at the U.N. over Iran's nuclear program and allegations of Tehran's interference in Iraq. The BBC's Iranian affairs analyst Sadeq Saba says taking this situation to the United Nations is unlikely to solve anything.

Ms. SADEQ SABA (Iranian Affairs Analyst, BBC): I don't think it's going to change the Iranian mind because there are already two security council resolutions approved unanimously about Iran's nuclear program just recently. And Iran said you have no respect for those resolutions because they are illegal and enforced by the United States. This is Iran's approach to the U.N. Security Council at the moment.

GIFFORD: Iranian television today released more pictures of the British sailors and marines being detained last Friday, apparently with gunshots in the background. The U.S. and European powers have expressed support for the British stance, but an Iranian spokesman said that what he called interference by third parties would not help resolve the issue.

Rob Gifford, NPR News, London.

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