Issue of 10 U.S. sailors taken into custody by Iran 'being resolved': official

WASHINGTON - The detention of 10 U.S. Navy sailors taken into custody by Tehran after their two boats drifted into Iranian waters "is being resolved," a leading Iranian official said, indicating they could be set free as early as Wednesday.

See Full Article

"Investigation shows that entry of American sailors into Iran's territorial waters was due to mechanical problems in their navigation system," Gen. Ali Fadavi, Navy chief of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard, was quoted as saying on Iran's state TV.

U.S. officials had said on Tuesday that Tehran assured them the crew and vessels would be returned safely and promptly.

Earlier Wednesday, Fadavi said the American boats had shown "unprofessional acts" for 40 minutes before being picked up by Iranian forces after entering the country's territorial waters.

The U.S. detainees included nine men and one woman, who were being held overnight at an Iranian base on Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf. They were expected to be transferred Wednesday to a U.S. ship in the region.

"US naval force and their frigate showed an unprofessional behaviour and had air and naval moves for 40 minutes in the area," Fadavi said at one point. He said Tehran did not consider the U.S. Navy boats violating Iranian territorial waters as "innocent passage."

"Certainly US presence in Persian Gulf and their passage has never been innocent and we do not deem their passage as innocent," he said.

Fadavi said Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif "had a firm stance" during a telephone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry "on their presence in our territorial waters and said they should not have come and should apologize."

"This process is underway now and will not last long. The Guard naval force will carry out orders of top commanders regarding this case as soon as we receive them," he said

Gen. Ramezan Sharif, spokesman for the Guard, said the U.S. military personnel were to be debriefed.

"If it is determined, after the investigation is carried out, that their action was not intentional, another approach will be taken," he said. "But If it's determined, after they are debriefed and interviewed, that their entry (into Iran's territorial waters) was for intelligence gathering or irrelevant action, definitely the authorities will take the necessary measures."

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told The Associated Press late Tuesday U.S. time that the Riverine boats were moving between Kuwait and Bahrain when the U.S. lost contact with them.

U.S. officials said that the incident happened near Farsi Island in the middle of the Gulf. They said some type of mechanical trouble with one of the boats caused them to drift into Iranian territorial waters near the island, and they were picked up by Iran.

"We have been in contact with Iran and have received assurances that the crew and the vessels will be returned promptly," Cook said late Tuesday, U.S. time.

The incident came amid heightened tensions with Iran, and only hours before President Barack Obama gave his final State of the Union address to Congress and the public. It set off a dramatic series of calls and meetings as U.S. officials tried to determine the exact status of the crew and reach out to Iranian leaders.

Kerry, who forged a personal relationship with Zarif through three years of nuclear negotiations, called his Iranian counterpart immediately on learning of the incident, according to a senior U.S. official. Kerry "personally engaged with Zarif on this issue to try to get to this outcome," the official said.

Kerry learned of the incident around 12:30 p.m. EST as he and Defence Secretary Ash Carter were meeting their Filipino counterparts at the State Department, the official said.

Officials said the sailors were part of Riverine Squadron 1 based in San Diego and were deployed to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet in Bahrain. When the U.S. lost contact with the boats, ships attached to the USS Harry S Truman aircraft carrier strike group began searching the area, along with aircraft flying off the Truman.

Officials said a radio signal from one of the boats showed that they were on Farsi Island, setting off efforts to contact the Iranians. The Riverine boats were not part of the carrier strike group, and were on a training mission as they travelled between Kuwait and Bahrain, officials said.

The Riverine boats are not considered high-tech and don't contain any sensitive equipment, so there were no concerns about the Iranians gaining access to the crafts.

The officials were not authorized to discuss the sensitive incident publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.

The incident came on the heels of an incident in late December when Iran launched a rocket test near U.S. warships and boats passing through the Strait of Hormuz.

Meanwhile, Iran was expected to satisfy the terms of last summer's nuclear deal in just days. Once the UN nuclear agency confirms Iran's actions to roll back its program, the United States and other Western powers are obliged to suspend wide-ranging oil, trade and financial sanctions on Tehran. Kerry recently said the deal's implementation was "days away."

-----

Associated Press writers Matthew Lee, Lolita C. Baldor, Bradley Klapper and Richard Lardner in Washington and Nasser Karimi and Ali Akbar in Tehran contributed to this report.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Sentencing hearing for mom who 'gambled away' son's life with holistic medicine

    Canada News CTV News
    CALGARY - Sentencing arguments are to be heard today for a woman who treated her son with holistic remedies before he died of a strep infection. Tamara Lovett was found guilty in January of criminal negligence causing death. Source
  • Trapped girl a symbol for Mexico's earthquake rescue efforts

    World News CBC News
    A delicate effort to reach a young girl buried in the rubble of her school stretched into a daylong vigil for Mexico, much of it broadcast across the nation as rescue workers still struggled in rain and darkness early Thursday trying to pick away unstable debris and reach her. Source
  • Trapped girl a symbol of Mexico's quake rescue efforts

    World News CTV News
    MEXICO CITY -- A delicate effort to reach a young girl buried in the rubble of her school stretched into a daylong vigil for Mexico, much of it broadcast across the nation as rescue workers still struggled in rain and darkness early Thursday trying to pick away unstable debris and reach her. Source
  • UN mission in Congo faces reckoning over sex abuse scandal

    World News CTV News
    BUNIA, Congo - The Congolese orphan girl haunts the UN's top human rights official, even though more than a decade has passed since he heard her story. It was a big day in this town in northeastern Congo: A top UN delegation was paying a high-profile visit. Source
  • Germany jails Syrian refugee over UN observer's abduction

    World News CBC News
    A German court has convicted a Syrian refugee of being an accessory to a war crime against humanitarian operations over his participation in the 2013 kidnapping of a United Nations observer. The Stuttgart state court Wednesday sentenced the defendant, who has been identified only as Suliman Al-S. Source
  • South Korea to resume aid to North Korea, but doesn't set timeline

    World News CTV News
    SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of - South Korea on Thursday decided to resume humanitarian aid to North Korea to help children and pregnant women, but didn't determine when to provide the $8 million worth of assistance amid tensions created by Pyongyang's nuclear and missile tests. Source
  • More charges, new defendant in Texas human smuggling case

    World News CTV News
    SAN ANTONIO - The driver of a semitrailer found outside a San Antonio Walmart in July packed with immigrants, including 10 who died, faces additional charges in the smuggling case and another defendant has now been charged, federal officials said Wednesday. Source
  • Hurricane Maria destroys homes, triggers flooding in Puerto Rico

    World News CBC News
    The strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in more than 80 years destroyed hundreds of homes, knocked out power across the entire island and turned some streets into raging rivers Wednesday in an onslaught that could plunge the U.S. Source
  • A stunned Puerto Rico seeks to rebuild after Hurricane Maria

    World News CBC News
    The strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in more than 80 years destroyed hundreds of homes, knocked out power across the entire island and turned some streets into raging rivers Wednesday in an onslaught that could plunge the U.S. Source
  • At UN, Myanmar tries to reassure the world over Rohingya crisis

    World News CTV News
    Myanmar tried to reassure the world Wednesday about its handling of the mass exodus of Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh and said it is committed to resolving sectarian tensions in the strife-hit region. The Southeast Asian nation is facing accusations of ethnic cleansing and "savagery" by its security forces. Source