Saturday, May 28, 2005

UAE tells Iran to free ship's crew

Agence France Presse:
The United Arab Emirates has told Tehran to free five crew members of a boat which Iran has held in the Gulf since early May, the daily newspaper Al-Khaleej said on Friday. READ MORE

"The Emirates wants a solution, as fast as possible, to this continuing affair, to avoid harmful consequences," the paper quoted a foreign ministry spokesman as saying.

He added that the government "hopes that such incidents will not occur again because a repeat would undoubtedly affect bilateral relations".

Relations between the two countries are already affected by a conflict over sovereignty of three islands in the Gulf -- Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa, seized by Iran after British forces left the Gulf in 1971 but claimed by the UAE.

The islands, lying between Iran and the UAE, control access to the Strait of Ormuz.

"The detention (of the crew) by Iran, then its taking them to court, is a repressive and surprising step which must be ended immediately," the spokesman said.

Earlier this week, Al-Khaleej said an Emirati national and four Indian expatriates were aboard the fishing boat, which according to its Emirati owner, Mohammad Hassan al-Qadhi, "disappeared on May 8". It added that Iranian officials had promised to sort out the matter.

The newspaper also said then that three Iranian boats had been seized by Emirati authorities on May 15 "after entering UAE territorial waters," but did not make clear how many people were on board or their nationalities.