Iran frees British yachtsmen detained in Gulf

Wed Dec 2, 2009 3:43pm EST
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By Hossein Jaseb

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran on Wednesday released five Britons detained in the Gulf after their yacht strayed into Iranian waters, averting a diplomatic row on top of Tehran's disputes with the West over its nuclear program.

The skipper, Oliver Smith, told reporters on arrival in Dubai they were treated well during their brief detention after they drifted into Iranian waters following a breakdown.

"Obviously it was a fairly tense situation the first couple of days. The longer we stayed there and they got to know us, they did relax ... They treated us very well," Smith said.

"It was a mistake to end up there ... We had no intention of upsetting anyone," he said.

Britain and Iran are at loggerheads over Iran's nuclear program, which Washington and its European allies fear is a cover to build bombs. Iran insists its nuclear work is aimed at generating power to meet booming domestic demand.

Hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused Britain on Tuesday of "tainting the tranquility" of Iran's talks with six major powers over its nuclear activities, state television reported.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said earlier he had received confirmation the men were on their way toward Dubai.

"I welcome the fact that this has been dealt with in a professional and straightforward way by the Iranian authorities. As I said yesterday, this is purely a consular case," he told reporters.   Continued...