Tensions High in Persian Gulf Over British Captives

ByABC News via via logo

March 29, 2007 — -- Tension continues to escalate in the Persian Gulf over Iran's capture of 15 British sailors and marines.

Iranian officials say they will release the only female in the group, but so far that hasn't happened.

British authorities have frozen all bilateral talks with Iran until all 15 soldiers are freed.

Iran has said the soldiers "trespassed" in Iranian waters and wants British officials to admit to that. British officials say Global Positioning System tracking devices show the British ship was still in Iraqi waters.

Meanwhile, the United States has stepped up its strong show of force as fighter jets have roared off two carrier decks of the USS Eisenhower in the Persian Gulf.

The fighter jets had been conducting missions over Iraq, but now they are conducting escort and reconnaissance missions just 50 miles from Iran.

The commanding officer of the Eisenhower was notified just days after the British sailors were captured that he should begin battle group exercises, which were clearly meant to send a message to Iran.

"What we're doing here is more about demonstrating our capability, our commitment, our resolve," said USS Eisenhower Capt. Dan Cloyd.

A senior U.S. official cited several possible reasons that Iran might have seized the British sailors.

It could be a response to the U.S. detention of several Iranian agents in Iraq. The capture could also be a response to British and American support for a recent U.N. resolution condemning Iran's nuclear program.

Or it could very well be that hostage taking is Iran's way of flexing its muscle in defiance of the West.

That was the case almost 30 years ago when Iranian militants stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took 70 Americans captive for 444 days.

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