5 Britons held in Iran, yacht seized

London:  Five Britons are being held in Iran after its navy seized their yacht, which may have strayed into Iranian waters in the Gulf en route from Bahrain to Dubai, the Foreign Office said on Monday.

In the incident on November 25 -- which recalled the seizure of 15 British sailors in 2007 -- a racing yacht owned by Sail Bahrain and crewed by five British nationals "was stopped by Iranian naval vessels," it said.

"The yacht was on its way from Bahrain to Dubai and may have strayed inadvertently into Iranian waters.

"The five crewmembers are still in Iran. All are understood to be safe and well and their families have been informed," an FCO statement added.

It is believed that the yacht was sailing from Bahrain to Dubai ahead of the start of the Dubai-Muscat Offshore Sailing Race.

The Foreign Office said it had had some "limited indirect contact" with the group but could not say where they were being held or if they were in prison. It is not clear whether they are professional sailors.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband said British officials immediately contacted the Iranian authorities in London and in Tehran "both to seek clarification and to try and resolve the matter swiftly.

"Our ambassador in Tehran has raised the issue with the Iranian Foreign Ministry and we have discussed the matter with the Iranian embassy in London," he said.

"I hope this issue will soon be resolved. We will remain in close touch with the Iranian authorities, as well as the families," he added.
Story First Published: December 01, 2009 08:51 IST

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