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I’m smelling another Gulf Of Tonkin.

March 26, 2007

Blair warns Iran on 15 seized sailors

By TARIQ PANJA and JENNIFER QUINN, Associated Press WritersSun Mar 25, 7:07 PM ET

British Prime Minister Tony Blair warned Iran on Sunday that the fate of 15 British sailors and marines seized off the Iraqi coast was a “fundamental” issue for his government, as Iran suggested the group may be put on trial for violating its waters.

British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett spoke by telephone with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki late Sunday, and reiterated her country’s stance that the British sailors and marines were operating in Iraqi waters as they searched for smugglers at sea.

She asked that British diplomats be allowed to meet with the service members and demanded their safe return, the Foreign Office said. In Jerusalem, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also called for their release.

At a European summit in Berlin, Blair said Iran’s claim that the sailors had crossed into Iranian territorial waters “is simply not true.”

“I want to get (the situation) resolved in as easy and diplomatic a way as possible,” Blair said, but added he hoped the Iranians “understood how fundamental an issue this is for the British government.”

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