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Blair: Sailors' Capture Is 'Unjustified'

"Tehran has always exercised self-restraint in the face of border violations by the British troops," Rahimpour was quoted as saying. But after the "contradictory statements" in the seizure of the British, the case "required an inquiry into such suspicious events."

Rajanews.com, a Persian Web site of supporters of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, quoted a senior diplomat as saying the Britons were still being held by Iranian armed forces and would not be released until they promised "not to do similar things in future."

Ahmad Bakhshaysh, a political analyst and professor in politics in Tehran's Allameh University, said a prisoner swap was not what Iran wanted.

"Iran is not after retaliation regarding abduction of its diplomats. ... However, Iran will use this opportunity to show to the world public opinion that Britons were (the) invader and Iran was victim of the Westerners bullying policy," he said.

The capture of the British sailors and marines was not the first time Iranians have taken Western forces by surprise in the border area.

In June 2004, six British marines and two sailors were captured, then paraded blindfolded on Iranian television. They admitted they had entered Iranian waters illegally but were released unharmed after three days.

U.S. News and World Report, citing a U.S. Army report out of Iraq, said American troops working with Iraqi border guards within Iraq were attacked by a much larger Iranian military unit in September. U.S. News said no Americans were hurt in the incident, but four Iraqi soldiers, an interpreter, and an Iraqi border policeman remain missing.

The U.S. military said the account was accurate, adding that the incident with the American troops, who were training, advising and helping the Iraqi border police, could have been a result of confusion in the vast desert area along the border.

"There is a lot of open terrain," military spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Donnelly said in an e-mail. "Visual sighting and happenstance encounters from a distance occur routinely."

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Associated Press Writers Paul Ames in Berlin, Robert Reid in Amman, Nasser Karimi in Tehran and Justin Bergman in New York contributed to this report.


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