- The Washington Times - Friday, March 30, 2007

1:32 p.m.

TEHRAN — One of the 15 British service members held captive in Iran appeared today on state television and said he apologized “deeply” for entering Iranian waters, and the country released a third letter supposedly from the one woman in the crew saying she has been “sacrificed” by Britain.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose government has insisted that its navy personnel were captured in Iraqi waters, immediately condemned Iran’s treatment of the captives, saying it “doesn’t fool anyone.”

In the video today, Royal Marine Rifleman Nathan Thomas Summers was shown sitting with another serviceman and the female British sailor Faye Turney against a pink floral curtain. Both men wore camouflage fatigues with a label saying “Royal Navy” on their chests and a small British flag stitched to their left sleeves. Seaman Turney wore a blue jumpsuit and a black head scarf.

“We trespassed without permission,” Rifleman Summers said, adding that he knew Iran had seized British military personnel who strayed into their waters three years ago.

“This happened back in 2004, and our government said that it wouldn’t happen again,” he said. “And, again, I deeply apologize for entering your waters.”

It was not known whether the marine spoke under pressure from his captors, but Rifleman Summers said in the broadcast “our treatment has been very friendly.”

Prime Minister Tony Blair criticized the airing of the video.

“I really don’t know why the Iranian regime keep doing this. I mean, all it does is enhance people’s sense of disgust. Captured personnel being paraded and manipulated in this way doesn’t fool anyone,” Mr. Blair said. “What the Iranians have to realize is that if they continue in this way, they will face increasing isolation.”

Iran earlier broadcast a video showing Seaman Turney saying her team had “trespassed” in Iranian waters, and today released a third letter from her.

The first two letters attributed to Seaman Turney said she was sorry the crew had strayed into Iranian waters and asked if it wasn’t time for Britain to withdraw its troops from Iraq.

“I am writing to you as a British serviceperson who has been sent to Iraq, sacrificed due to the intervening policies of the Bush and Blair governments,” the letter released today said.

The sailors and marines, part of a U.N.-mandated force patrolling the Persian Gulf, were seized off the Iraqi coast while searching merchant ships for evidence of smuggling. Britain insists the sailors were seized in Iraqi waters and has said no admission of error would be made.

Britain has frozen most bilateral contacts and referred the issue to the U.N. Security Council, which expressed “grave concern” over Iran’s seizure of the military personnel. Iran subsequently rolled back an offer to free Seaman Turney.

The Iranian Embassy in London said today the Security Council had no place in what it called a purely bilateral dispute: “The British government’s attempt to engage third parties, including the Security Council, with this case is not helpful.”

Iran first broadcast the footage of the captives, both Wednesday’s and today’s video, on its Arabic-language TV channel, Al-Alam, rather than on its main Farsi channels. The decision, which was not explained, appeared to be an attempt to seek support from Arabs in Iraq and the Gulf states, where many resent Britain’s military deployment in Iraq and its historical role as a colonial power in the region.

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