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Iran Denies It Forced U.K. Crewmen Into Its Waters

1 July 2004 -- Iran today denied British claims that eight U.K. servicemen arrested in June for trespassing into Iranian waters had been forced into its territory.

Yesterday, British Defense Minister Geoff Hoon said the servicemen reported they had not made a navigational mistake and had been detained in Iraqi waters on 21 June.

But Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi denies that version of events. Assefi says the British charges d'affaires in Tehran had confirmed that the servicemen unintentionally strayed into Iranian waters while operating along the Iran-Iraq border.

Hoon, in a written statement to the British House of Commons, said recent debriefing of the servicemen indicated that the initial assessment was incorrect. He also called on Iran to return the three river-patrol boats and equipment it seized when it took the men into custody for three nights.