x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Britain praises Tehran over sailors' release

Iran freed five British sailors detained last week when their racing yacht drifted accidentally into Iranian waters in the Persian Gulf.

TEHRAN, Iran // Iran freed five British sailors detained last week when their racing yacht drifted accidentally into Iranian waters in the Persian Gulf. Britain said it was delighted with today's release and praised Tehran's handling of the incident. The 60-foot yacht was in the Persian Gulf on its way from Bahrain to Dubai last Wednesday for the start of its first offshore race when it ran into a problem with its propeller, said Andrew Pindar, whose Team Pindar owns the yacht. It drifted into Iranian waters and was seized by the elite Revolutionary Guards' navy. "After carrying out an investigation and interrogation of the five British sailors, it became clear that their illegal entry was a mistake," the Revolutionary Guard said in a statement carried by Iran's official news agency, IRNA. "After obtaining necessary guarantees, the decision was made to release them." The British government had tried to keep the case from being politicised at a time when Tehran is under heavy pressure from the West over its nuclear program. Iran has accused Britain and other foreign governments of stoking the country's postelection street protests. The tensions with the West have also been heightened by Iran's detention of three Americans arrested this summer after they strayed across the border from northern Iraq. Washington and their families say the three unintentionally crossed into Iran while hiking, but Tehran recently accused them of espionage. The British foreign secretary David Miliband confirmed the release of the five Britons and said they were being towed in their boat to international waters. From there, they would be towed to Dubai. "I welcome the fact this has been dealt with in a straightforward, professional way by the Iranian authorities," Mr Miliband said. "Obviously this has been a real ordeal for the young men and their families and I'm really delighted that it's over for them and that we can call the matter closed." * AP