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Associated Press: Iranian leader says he’ll free Britons

By Nasser Karimi, Associated Press Writer: April 4, 2007

TEHRAN, Iran –Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday that his government would free the 15 detained British sailors and marines as a gift to the British people.

Ahmadinejad also gave medals of honor to the Iranian coast guards who intercepted the 15 British sailors and marines in the Gulf, saying Iran will never accept tresspassing of its territorial waters.

“On behalf of the great Iranian people, I want to thank the Iranian Coast Guard who courageously defended and captured those who violated their territorial waters, the president told a press conference.

He then interrupted his speech and pinned medals on the chests of three Coast Guard officers involved in capturing the British sailors and marines in the northern Gulf on March 23.

“We are sorry that British troops remain in Iraq and their sailors are being arrested in Iran,” Ahmadinejad said.

He criticized Britain for deploying Leading Seaman Faye Turney, one of the 15 detainees, in the Gulf, pointing out that she is a woman with a child.

Also Wednesday, Iran’s state media reported that an Iranian envoy will be allowed to meet five Iranians detained by U.S. forces in northern Iraq since January.

A U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad said, however, that American authorities were still considering the request. The spokesman, Maj. Gen. William C. Caldwell, said an international Red Cross team, including one Iranian, had visited the prisoners but he did not say when.

© Copyright 2007 Associated Press.

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