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Iran, Britain start talks on detained sailors: Larijani

TEHRAN, April 3 (Mehr News Agency) - The British government has started diplomatic discussions with the Iranian Foreign Ministry to resolve the issue of the British military personnel, Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani said here on Tuesday.

The talks have just started and "if they continue this path they can change the condition logically in such a way that the issue is resolved," Larijani told Iran's Central News Bureau.

Iranian armed forces arrested 15 British marines and sailors on March 23 after they illegally entered Iran's territorial waters in the northern Persian Gulf.

The arrested sailors entered Iran's territorial waters to inspect an Indian ship but "this is a kind of interference in Iran's sovereignty," Larijani said.

Such an incident had taken place before, but Britain had pledged that it would not be repeated, he added.

"From the start it was intended to resolve this issue through bilateral contacts between Iran and Britain and that the other side would resolve the issue by realizing its mistake.

"But they acted as if trespassing into Iranian waters was something normal and Iran should not protest," he said.

In an interview with the British Channel 4 News on Monday, Larijani stated, "This issue can be resolved and there is no need for any trial."

"Our priority is to solve this through proper diplomatic channels. We are not interested in having this issue get further complicated," he added.

Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) responded by saying, "We are still studying Dr. Larijani's remarks. There remain some differences between us, but we can confirm we share his preference for early bilateral discussions to find a diplomatic solution to this problem."

According to BBC, Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair has said that the next two days will be a "fairly critical" phase in the talks to free the 15 Royal Navy personnel.

Blair said he was "not looking for confrontation" and "the most important thing is to get the people back safe and sound".

... Payvand News - 4/3/07 ... --

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