Iran General NewsBritish yacht crew detained in Iran

British yacht crew detained in Iran


ImageNew York Times: A sleek, 60-foot sailing yacht and its five-member British crew en route to a race were seized by Iran last week after the vessel accidentally crossed into Iranian waters, British and racing officials said Tuesday. The New York Times


ImageA sleek, 60-foot sailing yacht and its five-member British crew en route to a race were seized by Iran last week after the vessel accidentally crossed into Iranian waters, British and racing officials said Tuesday. The episode could further strain the volatile relations between Iran and Western nations.

The yacht Kingdom of Bahrain, owned by Sail Bahrain, a yacht racing organization, was passing through the Persian Gulf to Dubai from Bahrain on Nov. 25 when it “may have strayed inadvertently into Iranian waters” and was stopped by Iranian naval vessels, the yachting group said in a statement. The five crew members were taken to Iran, where they were still being held as of late Monday, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office said in a statement. The British foreign secretary, David Miliband, said in the statement that diplomats in London and Tehran had been pressing their Iranian counterparts since last week to secure the crew’s release.

“I hope this issue will soon be resolved,” Mr. Miliband said in the statement. “We will remain in close touch with the Iranian authorities, as well as the families.”

The five were said to be “safe and well,” the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said.

The strained relationship between Iran and much of the world has deteriorated further in recent days after Iran angrily rejected calls to close a once-secret uranium enrichment facility and said it would build 10 more. The United States, Britain and a number of other countries have urged Iran to shut down the plant and accept a deal to ship its nuclear fuel abroad for enrichment instead.

British officials would not identify the crew members or provide any other information about the yacht’s course. Sail Bahrain’s Web site said the yacht’s crew had been heading toward the starting line of a 360-mile race from Dubai to Muscat, the capital of Oman.

But somewhere on the way, the crew members radioed for help because there was no wind and they could not motor to shore because of a mechanical problem, said Louay Habib, who works for the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club, which organized the race. The crew called for a tow but Mr. Habib said it apparently never arrived. “They had no means of propulsion,” Mr. Habib said.

A post on the Sail Bahrain Web site, dated Nov. 25, said that the yacht and its crew were to arrive in Dubai the following day, and it made no mention of mechanical troubles on the yacht.

It was unclear why the British authorities had waited five days to publicly report the taking of the boat.

Iranian news agencies had no reports on the seizure of the boat or crew, and there was no word about whether the crew members could face any charges. Iran often prosecutes when foreign nationals stray into its territory.

In mid-November, Iran said it was pursuing spying charges against three American travelers who accidentally crossed into the country over the summer as they hiked through the Iraqi region of Kurdistan. Despite pleas from the hikers’ parents and calls for their release from the White House, the hikers are still being held in Iran.

In March 2007, the Revolutionary Guards arrested 15 British sailors and marines whose ship entered Iran’s territory, then released them two weeks later in a gesture the country’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, characterized as a gift to the British.

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