Iran Detains 3 Finns in Persian Gulf

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Associated Press Writer

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – Iran has detained three Finns who allegedly strayed into its territorial waters during a fishing trip in the Persian Gulf, an official said Wednesday.

Ahmad Akhoundi, deputy governor of Iran’s Hormozgan province, was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying that the three Finns were being questioned by authorities, although he did not say where they were being held.

He said they had “entered Iranian territorial waters” around Abu Musa island, about 700 miles southeast of the capital, Tehran, off the coast of Dubai.

Earlier, Finnish Ambassador Heikki Puurunen said Iranian officials had assured him the three were in good condition and had been treated well since they were seized Saturday. But Puurunen said Iran had not yet agreed to a Finnish request to see the men in accordance with consular agreements between the two countries.

“The only message we have got from the Iranians is that they are in good condition and they are taking good care of them,” Puurunen told The Associated Press. “They said that they will inform us as soon possible. … In Iran, it usually it takes some time to get these things.”

In Helsinki, Foreign Ministry spokesman Pasi Tuominen said Iranian officials had told Finnish diplomats Wednesday that “there is reason to expect them to be released within 48 hours.”

Finnish Foreign Minister Ilkka Kanerva said during a visit to Portugal that he was “confident everything is going quite well” and the men would be “released in the nearest future, today or latest, tomorrow.”

Iranian Embassy representative Ahmad Reza Shamsi in Helsinki also told Finnish YLE radio that the three would soon be freed, citing “good relations between the two countries” and adding the men had “entered this area by mistake, most probably.”

The men are employed in the United Arab Emirates by Nokia Siemens Networks in Dubai, the ambassador said. He declined to release their names or other personal details.

Nokia Siemens said the three employees were on vacation.

“It would appear that they mistakenly navigated into Iranian waters during a fishing trip,” Nokia Siemens spokesman Barry French said, but gave no other details.

After the Finns’ seizure, the Foreign Ministry in Helsinki revised its travel advisory on the Persian Gulf, saying that travel near Abu Musa and other islands in the region should be avoided.

In March, Iranian Revolutionary Guards detained 15 British sailors and marines after seizing their ship in what Tehran claimed were Iranian waters in the Persian Gulf. Britain insisted the crew was in Iraqi waters at the time. The 15 were released after nearly two weeks in captivity.

In November 2005, Iranian officials arrested a Frenchman and German during a sailing trip, purportedly for taking photos of ships in the Persian Gulf. Stephane Lherbier and Donald Klein were convicted in January 2006 and sentenced to 18 months in prison. Lherbier, the Frenchman, was released in February 2007, and Klein was freed in March.

Associated Press writer Matti Huuhtanen in Helsinki, Finland, contributed to this report.



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