EU tells Iran to free UK troops

The EU has told Iran to free fifteen British sailors who were captured after allegedly straying into Iranian waters near the Iraqi city of Basra.

EU tells Iran to free UK troops

The EU has told Iranto free fifteen British sailors who were captured afterallegedly straying into Iranian waters near the Iraqi city of Basra.

"The presidency of the council of the European Unioncalls upon the Iranian Government to immediately release the 15 British seamendetained yesterday," Germanyforeign ministry said in a statement.

Germany,which currently holds the EU presidency, said on Saturday that it hadearlier raised the matter with the Iranian foreign ministry.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German foreign minister,also said that Berlinhad obtained official confirmation that the troops were under arrest.

The British troops - including one woman - weredetained on Friday during what Britaindescribed as a "routine anti-smuggling operation" in the Shattal-Arab waterway that divides Iraqand Iran.

Iran'sFars news agency said on Saturday that the sailors and marines had been takento Tehran toexplain their "aggressive action".

General Ali Reza Afshar, a senior Iranian military official,told an Iranian news agency on Saturday that the captured Britons had"confessed to illegal entry into Iran's waters."

"The said personnel are being interrogated and haveconfessed to aggression into the Islamic Republic of Iran waters," Afsharwas quoted as saying by the semi-official ISNA news agency.

'Brisk' talks

In London Rasoul Movahedian, Iran'sambassador to the UK,was summoned for talks with Sir Peter Ricketts, a senior aide to MargaretBeckett, the British foreign secretary, which were described as "brisk butcordial".

Shortly afterwards, Beckett called on Tehran to fully explain the detentions,saying that Movahedian "was left in no doubt that we want them back".

British officials declined to confirm whether Movahedian hadoffered any assurances that the personnel would be released.

'Routine boarding'

The Britons from the frigate HMS Cornwall, were in twoinflatable boats and engaged in a "routine smugglinginvestigation" when they were seized, the US defence department said.

The abduction of the British servicemen - includingone woman - came as the UN Security Council prepared to vote on newsanctions aimed at forcing Tehranto curb its nuclear programme.

In June 2004, six British marines and two navy sailorswere detained for three days in Iran after a routine operation.

They were paraded blindfold on television and forced toapologise for their "mistake".

On that occasion Iraninsisted that the boats - which it has not yet returned - were interceptedonly after they entered Iranian waters on the Shatt al-Arab that divides Iraq from Iran.

Machine guns

According to a statement from the US Navy's Fifth Fleet,which is based in Bahrainand operates jointly with the British forces off the coast of Iraq, theBritish sailors had just finished inspecting the merchant ship "when theyand their two boats were surrounded and escorted by Iranian vessels intoIranian territorial waters".

Commander Kevin Aandahl said the British crew members were intercepted byseveral larger patrol boats operated by Iranian sailors belonging to theIranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy, a force that operates separately fromthe country's regular navy.

The Iranian boats normally carry bow-mounted machine guns,while the British boarding party carried only sidearms, Aandahl said.

No shots were fired and there appeared to be no physicalharm done to any personnel involved or their vessels, Aandahl said.

The seizure of the British vessels, a pair of rigidinflatable boats known as RIBs, took place in long-disputed waters just outsideof the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab, Aandahl said.

A 1975 treaty gave the waters to Iraqand US and British ships commonly operate there, but Aandahl said Iran disputes Iraq's jurisdiction over the waters.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16