Iran isolating itself by mistreating seized sailors: Blair

Iran will be increasingly isolated because of its treatment of illegally seized British sailors and marines, says British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Iran will be increasingly isolated because of its treatment of illegally seizedBritish sailors and marines, British Prime Minister Tony Blair says.

Earlier Friday, Iran's official Arabic-language TV channel showed a British marine apologizing forentering Iranian waters "without permission."

Rifleman Nathan Thomas Summers was one of 15 British personnel seized by Iran at sea near the Iran-Iraq maritime border on March 23.

Blair responded that the service personnel will be released, Iran is facing increasing condemnation from world bodies and Britain has done nothing wrong.

"I really don't know why the Iranian regime does this [show captives on TV]," because it just arouses disgust, he told reportersFriday.

"If they continue in this way, they will face increasing isolation," Blair said, referring to a UN Security Council resolution passedThursday and an announcement from the European Union expected Friday.

TheSecurity Council expressed "grave concern" over Iran's seizure of theBritish personnel.

"There's only one possible conclusion to this — that our personnel are released safe and sound," Blair said.

The letter purportedly written by British sailor Faye Turney, released Friday by the Iranian Embassy in London.

To British People,

I am writing to you as a British service person who has been sent to Iraq, sacrificed due to the intervening policies of the Bush and Blair governments.
We were arrested after entering Iranian waters by the Iranian forces. For this I am deeply sorry. I understand that this has caused even more distrust for the people of Iran, and the whole area of the British [sic].
The Iranian people treated me well and have proved themselves to be caring, compassionate, hospitable, and friendly. For this I am thankful.
I believe that for our countries to move forward, we need to start withdrawing our forces from Iraq, and leave the people of Iraq to start rebuilding their lives.
I have written a letter to the people of Iran apologizing for our actions.
Whereas we hear and see on the news the way prisoners were treated in Abu Ghrayb and other Iraqi jails by the British and American personnel, I have received total respect and faced no harm.
It is now our time to ask our government to make a change to its oppressive behavior towards other people.

Associated Press

Just after Blair spoke to reporters in Britain, the Iranian Embassy in London releaseda third letter attributed to Faye Turney, 26, theonly woman among the seized British personnel.

She said she was "sacrificed due to the intervening policies of the [U.S. President George W.] Bush and Blair governments," and continued a critique of Western intervention in Iraq from her previous letter, released Thursday.

"It is now our time to ask our government to make a change to its oppressive behaviour towards other people," the new letter said.

Turney's letter again admitted the British personnel had entered Iranian waters.

'Trespassed without permission'

Summers said he was aware that the incident in which he was seized was the second time since 2004 that British military personnel had entered Iranian waters.

"Again I deeply apologize for entering your waters,"he said. "We trespassed without permission."

However, Blair held to the British position that the personnel were on an anti-smuggling patrol outside Iranian waters when they were seized.

"These people were in Iraqi waters under a United Nations mandate," he said.

Summerssaid the 15 sailors and marineshave been treated well. "I'm grateful no harm has come to us."

In London on Friday, Britain's Foreign Office denounced Iran for broadcasting the confession.

"Using our servicemen in this way for propaganda reasons is outrageous," said a Foreign Office spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with department policy.

Reconsidering release

A spokesman for Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that Iran is willing to reconsider the possible release of Turney.

Erdogan called Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday evening to discuss the British personnel, according to Erdogan's spokesman, Akif Beki.

Iran was "willing to reconsider the issue of the release of the woman crew member,"he said.

In Ottawa, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter McKay said Canada would press Iran to release the sailors because their continuing detention was destabilizing the entire region.

"It's provocative, it comes at a time where tensions are already elevated in the region and we have expressed, both the prime minister and myself, our support to the British at this time," McKay said.