Accessibility links

Iran Releases Detained British Yacht Crew

A TV grab shows the "Kingdom of Bahrain" racing yacht, on which the five British men were traveling.

A TV grab shows the "Kingdom of Bahrain" racing yacht, on which the five British men were traveling.

LONDON -- Iran has released five British yachtsmen detained in the Gulf after their boat apparently strayed into Iranian waters, Britain's Foreign Office said today.

"We understand that they are being towed to international waters and will be met by a representative from the sailing company," the Foreign Office said in a statement.

Naval forces of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) detained the men a week ago.

The news follows telephone talks on December 1 between British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki.

Iranian officials had hinted at "serious" consequences if the men were shown to have acted with "evil intentions."

British officials had ruled out any politically charged intent and called for the quick release of the men, who were picked up on November 25.

British officials said the yachtsmen appeared to have strayed mistakenly into Iranian waters while sailing from Bahrain to Dubai for a Dubai-Muscat boat race.

There were fears the detentions could exacerbate existing strains in Iranian-British relations, which have suffered amid international efforts to rein in Tehran's nuclear ambitions and charges by Iranian officials of Western interference in their domestic affairs.

Iranian authorities detained 15 British sailors and marines in March 2007 whom Tehran accused of illegally entering Iranian waters during UN-mandated shipping inspections -- a claim that was categorically rejected by the British. Those detainees spent nearly two weeks in custody as British diplomats worked for their release.

compiled from agency reports