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Asia-pacific

Tehran will deal 'firmly' with detained British sailors if found guilty

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2009-12-01

Iran will deal "firmly" with five Britons detained after their racing yacht strayed into Iranian waters if they are found to have had "ill intention", an aide to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday.

AFP - A top aide to Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday confirmed the detention of five Britons in Gulf waters and vowed they will be dealt with "firmly" if found guilty.

Ahmadinejad's chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, said the way to deal with the British nationals "arrested in the Persian Gulf by Iranian forces will be decided by the judiciary," Fars news agency reported.

"If these people's ill-intention is proven, they will be dealt with seriously and firmly," he said, adding Tehran had in the past dealt firmly with people who "entered Iran illegally."

Britain said on Tuesday it has "no argument" with Tehran over sailors detained after straying into Iranian waters, stressing that the seizure was a purely consular matter.

Seeking to head off a diplomatic row over Iran's seizure of the five on November 25, Foreign Secretary David Miliband stressed that they had been treated well.

"There is certainly no confrontation or argument," he told BBC radio, a day after London went public about the seizure. "This is a purely consular matter, and we look forward to it being treated as such.

"As far as we are aware these people are being well-treated, which is right and what we'd expect from a country like Iran," he added.

The seizure, which recalls the detention of 15 British navy personnel in 2007, comes amid already heightened tensions between Tehran and the West over Iran's nuclear plans.

The five Britons were sailing from Bahrain to the start of a race in Dubai when their yacht, "The Kingdom of Bahrain," was stopped last Wednesday in the Gulf, the Foreign Office said.

Miliband stressed the latest incident was different from the one in 2007, which involved military personnel.

"It is important to say that these are civilians, not Royal Naval personnel," he said. "They are yachtsmen, they were going about their sport and it seems they may have strayed inadvertently into Iranian waters."

Iran's Revolutionary Guards navy chief, Ali Reza Tangsiri, told Fars that "confronting foreign forces and arresting them is the duty of Sepah (Guards)," hinting strongly the five were detained by his forces.

"The movements in the Persian Gulf are under the supervision of Sepah. If the British were arrested, then it is for sure known which force in the country has arrested them," he added.

The yacht may have been drifted into Iranian waters after breaking its propeller en route to the Dubai-Muscat Offshore Sailing Race, which started last Thursday, British media reports said.

The crew have been named as Oliver Smith, Oliver Young, Sam Usher, Luke Porter and David Bloomer, according to informed sources in London.

Charles Porter said he had spoken to his 21-year-old son Luke on a mobile phone since the incident and he appeared to be in good spirits.

"From what we understand there was an oil field on their charts -- which is a restricted area -- so they chose to go one side of it," Porter said, adding the yacht may therefore have strayed too close to an Iranian island.

"He's a strong character but obviously we are very worried about him," he said, quoted by the Daily Mail.

The 60-foot (18-metre) Volvo racing yacht is owned by Sail Bahrain and backed by Team Pindar, a British racing team.

The Foreign Office said it had had some "limited indirect contact" with the five Britons but could not say where they were being held or if they were in prison.

In the 2007 incident, eight sailors and seven marines were captured on March 23. Britain insisted they were in Iraqi territorial waters, while Tehran said they were in Iranian waters.

During the 13 days they were held, the 14 men and one woman were not mistreated but were paraded on Iranian television, sparking anger from Britain and other Western governments.

Date created : 2009-12-01

  • IRAN - UK

    London says 'no confrontation' over detained sailors

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