Iran Guards say detained five Britons in Gulf

Tue Dec 1, 2009 4:05am EST
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By Hossein Jaseb

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's Revolutionary Guards have detained five Britons in the Gulf, a Guards commander confirmed on Tuesday, adding that it was the elite force's duty to confront "foreign forces" in the strategic waterway.

The detentions, first announced by Britain on Monday, may add to tension between Tehran and London.

Britain is among Western powers embroiled in a long-running row with Tehran over the Islamic Republic's nuclear ambitions.

But British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who on Monday said the Britons' racing yacht might have strayed into Iranian waters, said there was no dispute with Iran and that he believed the yachtsmen were being well treated.

"We understand that the Iranian government are investigating the incident, which is perfectly reasonable, and then we would look forward to it being promptly sorted out," he told BBC.

Oil prices rose by more than $1 on fears of a diplomatic crisis after news of the detention was made public on Monday. [ID:nGEE5AT2J1] The Gulf's Strait of Hormuz is a vital route for global oil supplies.

"The Britons have been arrested by the Revolutionary Guards' naval forces. Confronting foreign forces and detaining them in the Gulf is the Revolutionary Guards' duty," said Ali Reza Tangsiri, a commander of the Guards' naval forces, the semi-official Fars News Agency reported.

A Revolutionary Guards spokesman told Reuters the case was under investigation and declined further comment.   Continued...