Friday, March 23, 2007

BASRA, Iraq (Reuters) - Iranian forces seized 15 British Royal Navy personnel who had searched a merchant ship on Friday, Britain said, triggering a diplomatic crisis at a time of heightened tensions over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
Britain said the incident took place in Iraqi waters, where it routinely searches merchant vessels with UN permission.

In London, Foreign Office Permanent Undersecretary Sir Peter Ricketts summoned Iranian ambassador Rasoul Movahedian. A spokesman said: "The meeting was brisk but cordial. Sir Peter demanded the safe return of our personnel and equipment."

The incident took place a day after Iran launched a week of naval war games along its coast, including the narrow northern reaches of the Gulf which control access to the vast oil reserves of Iraq, Iran and Kuwait.