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Photo: Sky News
Demonstration outside British embassy
Photo: Sky News
British sailors arrested in Iran
Photo: AFP
Explosives rock British embassy in Tehran
Iranian protestors shout "Death to Britain", hurl stones and home-made explosive devices at embassy; no one hurt

Several small blasts rocked the British embassy in Iran Sunday, with smoke cited in the embassy's compound in central Tehran, but British sources said no one was hurt.

 

Witnesses also said the blasts did not appear to do any damage, although each sent a small plume of smoke into the air.  One witness cited eight blasts saying they came from small, home-made explosive devices.

 

The blasts took place at a protest by about 100 Iranians, regarding 15 British personnel captured by Iranian vessels on March 23.  Iran accused them of illegally entering the nation's territorial waters while Britain says the sailors were seized in Iraqi waters.

 

Witnesses in Tehran said the blasts were heard as demonstrators surged towards a barrier in the middle of the road near the embassy and crossed into the lines of police, some of them wearing riot gear. The demonstrators were pushed back.

 

"British, British, death to you, death to you," some of the demonstrators chanted, as some hurled stones at the embassy. One witness saw a small scuffle between police and some of the protestors.  Some of the protestors also chanted "Death to America". 

 

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

  

The capture of the sailors has prompted international criticism of Iran, with US President George W. Bush calling the detention inexcusable and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, now holder of the European Union presidency, demanding the sailors' release.

 

The row, at a time of heightened Middle East tensions over Tehran's disputed nuclear program, pushed oil prices last week to six-month highs.

 

Demanding a change of behavior

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was quoted as saying on state television: "Iran is waiting for a change of behaviour by Britain and a balanced stance by this country over our legal demands."

 

He did not outline the demands but, in a speech on Saturday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Britain should have apologised. He has also accused London of not following "the legal or logical way" in the dispute.

 

Adding to the tense atmosphere, Iran sent a letter to the British embassy in Tehran complaining about a shooting by British troops near its consulate in the Iraqi city of Basra, Iran's ISNA news agency reported.

 

Iran said it was a provocative act but Britain denied any aggressive action and said the shooting on Thursday came from a British convoy that was ambushed in the same street.

 

Mottaki said Iran was studying a written message sent by British Foreign Minister Margaret Beckett that replied to an earlier Iranian diplomatic note on the detentions. "There are many points in this note that we will look into," the Iranian foreign minister said.

 

British Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander said London was "exploring the potential for dialogue with the Iranians" but gave no details.

 

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