Foreign Secretary demands release of British yachtsmen held by Iran
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband urged Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki to release five British yachtsmen detained after they strayed into Iranian waters. Iran vowed to punish them if they are found to have "evil intentions".
AFP - British Foreign Secretary David Miliband Tuesday pressed his Iranian counterpart to release five yachtsmen, after officials called in Tehran's ambasssador to voice "increasing concern" over their detention.
Miliband also reiterated a demand for consular access to the sailors and his hope for a "speedy conclusion" to the matter, during a telephone conversation with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.
"The Foreign Secretary told Minister Mottaki he was calling about a consular issue: the five British yachtsmen detained in Iran," the Foreign Office said in a statement.
"He (Miliband) pressed Mr Mottaki for clear information on what had happened and for a statement of Iranian intentions in respect of the five.
"He reiterated our demand for formal consular access to the men, and his hope that this issue be brought to a speedy conclusion and the release of all five."
It added that Mottaki said he would seek to get a response to Miliband's points as soon as possible.
The exchange came after Iran earlier said that the five sailors, detained last week after apparently straying into Iranian waters, would be dealt with firmly if found guilty of what it called "ill intentions."
The five men on board an 18-metre (60-foot) racing yacht were detained last week by Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, the force's navy chief said.
The sailors' boss said the boat may have drifted into Iranian waters due to a damaged propeller.
Britain called in Iran's ambassador to London earlier Tuesday "for a meeting," to seek confirmation of where the five were being held, the Foreign Office said. Consular access was also sought and a "swift resolution," it said.
The meeting between Iranian ambassador Rasoul Movahedian and the Foreign Office's top civil servant Peter Ricketts lasted about 30 minutes.
In a statement afterwards, the department said: "Since it was now almost a week since the yachtsmen were held, the delay in providing a full explanation of what had happened and clarity on Iranian intentions were a matter of increasing concern."
Separately, an official said Britain believed the group was being held on Sirri Island, a small island in the Gulf off the coast of Iran near where they had been sailing.
"We understand that they are being held on Sirri Island but we are seeking confirmation of that with the Iranians," a Foreign Office spokeswoman told AFP.
Andrew Pindar, chairman of the Sail Bahrain team which owns the yacht, said it may have drifted into Iranian waters due to a damaged propeller.
"We received a call from the crew stating that they had been stopped by an Iranian navy vessel," he said in a statement.
"We understood that the crew believed they were in UAE waters, but due to a fault with the propeller