TEHRAN, Iran, (AP) -Iran on Wednesday freed the 15 detained British sailors and marines in what President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called an Easter gift to the British people. Prime Minister Tony Blair said he bore “no ill will” toward the Iranian people.
Iranian state television said the 14 men and one woman, who were seized while on patrol in the northern Persian gulf on March 23, would leave Iran on Thursday. An Iranian official in London said they would be handed over to British diplomats in Tehran.
Ahmadinejad’s surprise announcement came at a news conference shortly after he pinned a medal on the chest of the Iranian coast guard commander who intercepted the sailors and marines.
“I’m glad that our 15 service personnel have been released and I know their release will come as a relief not just to them but to their families,” Blair said outside his No. 10 Downing St. office. “Throughout, we have taken a measured approach, firm but calm, not negotiating but not confronting, either.”
Blair added, “To the Iranian people I would simply say this: We bear you no ill will.”