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Iranian TV shows two British sailors apologizing
Updated: 2004-06-23 01:21

Iranian television broadcast footage Tuesday of two British sailors arrested Monday on the Shatt al-Arab waterway apologizing for entering Iranian territorial waters.

A frame grab taken from Iranian television shows what are believed to be four of the eight British crew members detained by Iran after their boats were seized on a waterway between Iran and Iraq. [Reuters]
"The team wrongly entered Iranian waters and we apologize for this mistake because it was a big mistake," one of the sailors, identified as Sergeant Thomas Hawkins, said in comments dubbed into Arabic and shown on Al-Alam television.

Hawkins, dressed in military fatigues, said his team of eight sailors had been one mile inside Iranian territorial waters when they were arrested by Iran's Revolutionary Guards.

Another sailor, chief petty officer Robert Webster, said the team had wrongly entered Iranian waters on a mission accompanying a vessel from Umm Qasr to Basra.

The arrest of the sailors threatened to cause a serious diplomatic rift between Iran and Britain. But an Iranian military official said they could soon be released if investigations show their incursion was not ill-intended.

The Royal Navy personnel appeared in blindfolds on Iranian television Tuesday and the British government summoned Iran's ambassador to London and called for their release.

Some Iranian media reports said the Britons were carrying sophisticated maps and arms and would be prosecuted, but Ali Reza Afshar, deputy head of the armed forces chief of staff, said they could be freed shortly.

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