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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Iran Ignores Pressure Over British Sailors

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran ignored growing international pressure on Sunday to release 15 British sailors and marines, saying London should change its behavior over the nine-day stand-off.

The British sailors were detained by Iranian naval units March 23, accused of illegally entering Iranian territory, while patrolling for smugglers in a waterway that divides Iraq and Iran.

Their capture has prompted international criticism of Iran, with U.S. President George W. Bush calling the detention inexcusable.

Bush said Saturday that Iran plucked the sailors out of Iraqi waters. "Iran must give back the hostages," Bush said from the Camp David presidential retreat. "They're innocent. They did nothing wrong."

It was the first time that Bush had commented publicly on the captured Britons. Washington has taken a low-key approach to avoid aggravating tensions over the incident and shaking international resolve to get Iran to give up its uranium enrichment program.

Russia also on Saturday urged Britain and Iran to resolve the dispute.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin urged the two sides to provide the United Nations with their own assessments as to what happened and where the detention occurred so that the body could conduct an independent investigation into the incident.

"We hope these actions will provide a foundation for the soonest possible resolution of the crisis," Kamynin said, Interfax reported.

Britain insists the crew was captured inside Iraqi territorial waters. It has sharply denounced Iran over the treatment of the captives -- a clear sign both sides were hardening their stance as the crisis entered its second week.

Iran's ambassador to Russia Gholam-Reza Ansari said in interview with Vesti-24 television on Friday that the case had entered a "legal phase," and suggested the situation would have been resolved had Britain issued an official apology.