LONDON — An Iranian opposition group claimed Saturday that Iran’s capture of 15 British sailors and marines was planned in advance and carried out in retaliation for the U.N. sanctions imposed against the country.
Iran appears intent on sending a message of strength as it faces mounting U.N. Nations sanctions over its uranium enrichment program, which the U.S. and other nations suspect the Islamic Republic is using to develop nuclear weapons.
Hossein Abedini, a member of the opposition group’s foreign affairs committee, claimed the group had obtained information from sources within Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard and had passed details to the British government.
Mohammad Mohaddessin, who handles foreign affairs for the council, said in a statement that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had ordered the detention of the Britons in the hope of pressuring the British government over a threat to toughen U.N. sanctions.
“You can see that the clerical regime had in a premeditated act arrested British sailors in order to win concessions from the international community and divert attention from its nuclear project,” Abedini said. “Claims that the sailors were arrested in Iranian territorial waters are baseless.”
Britain’s Foreign Office reiterated that the personnel “were in Iraqi waters and we continue to request immediate consular access to them and their immediate release.”
Britain has frozen most contacts with Iran and referred the issue to the U.N. Security Council, which expressed “grave concern” on Thursday over Iran’s seizure last week of the Britons.