Blair Piles Pressure on Iran; POLITICS

Article excerpt

Byline: By Andrew Woodcock

The Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary piled the pressure on Iran yesterday to demand the immediate release of 15 British service personnel, including a Shropshire woman, held captive for five days.

Diplomatic wrangling intensified with Tony Blair saying he was "utterly confident" they had done nothing wrong while Margaret Beckett demanded their safe return in "very robust" terms.

The eight sailors and seven Marines from the Type 22 frigate HMS Cornwall were carrying out a routine search of a vessel which they suspected of smuggling.

They were held at gunpoint by Iranian forces in the mouth of the Shatt al Arab waterway which divides Iran and Iraq.

The group seized last Fri-day include married mother-of-one Faye Turney and 21-year-old Paul Barton, from Merseyside.

Archive photographs and television footage show Mrs Turney in uniform and travelling in a rigid inflatable boat.

The family of Mrs Turney, who has a three-year-old daughter, described her capture as a "very distressing time".

Mrs Turney, whose maiden name was Boswell, was married in 2002 at village church in Oxon, Shropshire.

The Rev Sue Caddy, from Shelton and Oxon Christ Church, said her colleague, Mary Fearnside, conducted the ceremony but she also knew the family.

She said she had been in contact with the Turneys, who moved from the area some time ago: "Our prayers are always with the people of the Armed Forces."

It was reported that Mrs Turney's daughter Molly was being looked after by her husband Adam at their home in Plymouth.

The Foreign Office has maintained pressure on the Iranian government and Mrs Beckett yesterday spoke to her counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki for the second time since the affair began.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "She spoke in very robust terms, re-iterating the UK's concerns about the continued detention of our personnel. …