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UK still awaiting return of seized boats from Iran

London, Jan 25, IRNA -- The British government is still awaiting the return of three patrol boats that were detained by Iran after entering their territorial waters seven months ago, Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram has confirmed.

"The Iranian authorities have not returned the boats and equipment which they seized on June 21 (2004). We continue to press for their return," Ingram said in a written parliamentary answer published Tuesday.

The issue was raised by the opposition Conservative's Shadow Defence Minister Andrew Robathan, who asked the government to make a statement on the situation.

Six British marines and two sailors, who were detained with the boats for illegally entering Iranian waters in the Persian Gulf, were released within three days.

The diplomatic way in which the servicemen were freed was immediately praised by former Conservative minister Sir Teddy Taylor as an "excellent example of how deep and divisive international problems can be resolved in a positive and constructive manner."

The release was reportedly obtained after the intervention by Foreign Secretary Jack Straw that contrasted with a statement by Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, who warned a 'deadline' for the return of the boats had passed when trying to revise how the incident.

In what he called "more detailed briefing," Hoon said that the crews now claim that "they were operating inside the Iraqi border and were forcibly escorted into Iranian territorial waters." This was after the Foreign Office admitted a "mistake" had been made.

The return of the boats also reportedly presented logistical problems with the option of either sending another team of British personnel to pick them up or allow Iran's Revolutionary Guards to take them into Iraqi waters, from where they had transgressed.

... Payvand News - 1/25/05 ... --

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