Tehran, Iran — More than 150 students pelted the British Embassy here with firecrackers and a smoke grenade Sunday, demanding an apology and the closure of the mission following Iran's detention of 15 British sailors and marines in the northern Persian Gulf.
Shouting slogans such as "Death to Britain" and carrying banners with a call to "finally wipe Israel from the face of the Earth," hard-line Islamist students attempted to scale the embassy walls and pull down the flag, but were rebuffed by riot police.
Hours later, two new purported confessions were broadcast on Iranian state television, which aired previously unseen footage of two of captured sailors allegedly admitting incursions into Iranian state waters.
Dressed in military uniform and looking physically healthy and relaxed, the two men stood in front of a large nautical map of the Persian Gulf, speaking as they used a pointer to indicate locations. One smiled as he spoke.
The announcer said the pair confessed to illegally trespassing Iranian waters about 10 a.m. local time on March 23, half an hour before their small boats were surrounded and detained by Iranian military personnel in gunboats.
British officials have protested the airing of such footage, contending it violates international conventions for the treatment of prisoners.
The embassy protest came as British and Iranian officials carried on behind-the-scenes diplomatic contacts over the weekend aimed at defusing the standoff that began when the Britons were taken in disputed waters south of the Shatt al Arab waterway.
Iran was said to be studying a British diplomatic note sent in response to its own, which reportedly has suggested that Britain provide a guarantee that it will not commit any future incursions into Iranian waters. Britain has refused to apologize, insisting its service members were operating in Iraqi waters.
While British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett on Saturday went so far as to say she "regretted" the situation, a Foreign Office spokesman insisted it was "not at all" an apology.
"We are anxious that this matter be resolved as quickly as possible, and we are bending every single effort to do that," Defense Minister Des Browne told the British Broadcasting Corp. on Sunday. "We are in direct bilateral communications with the Iranians, and they know that not only do we have a very clear position, but we have the support of almost the entire international community."
But Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mohammed Ali Hosseini, said Iran "has defended its sovereignty and territorial integrity" with the arrest of the 15 Britons and said the statement criticizing the arrest by the European Union this week was unnecessary.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did not refer directly to the detained British service members but predicted in an address in the city of Khorramshahr in southwestern Iran that "arrogant powers" will vanish like "bubbles on water."
He also pledged Sunday that there would be additional developments in Iran's controversial nuclear program.
"The Iranian nation will soon hear fresh news about our country's nuclear transition," the president said, according to IRNA.