A British diplomat said that the six Marines and two soldiers were handed over by Iran's Revolutionary Guard and arrived in Tehran on Thursday.

 

"They are quite tired but in good spirits," said British embassy spokesman Andrew Dunn.

 

Diplomats had been locked in negotiations deep into Wednesday night, deliberating over the return of the men's equipment. The eight were held in the province of Khuzestan in Iran's southwest.

 

The Royal Navy personnel were intercepted on Monday after their three patrol boats strayed into Iranian waters on the border with British-occupied southern Iraq.

Iran's Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi had said an inquiry had found the men to have had no ill-intentions and had just veered off course in the straits.

Arabic-language Iranian television had reported that Tehran
was refusing to let the eight cross back into neighbouring Iraq because it does not recognise the US-led occupation.

Complex negotiations between British diplomats and Iranian Revolutionary Guards on the handover had resumed on Thursday, said a British embassy official.