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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 October 2005, 18:01 GMT 19:01 UK
Norway officials 'to be returned'
The two Norwegian inspectors are still on board the Elektron
Two Norwegian fisheries inspectors who have been held on board a Russian trawler since Saturday will be handed over on Thursday, officials say.

The Elektron, which is now in Russian waters, was chased by Norwegian navy ships in the Arctic after it fled, following an inspection of its catch.

Norway abandoned its chase as the ship entered Russian waters, heading for the port of Murmansk.

Officials on both sides say they expect the issue to be settled peacefully.

The boat was intercepted on Saturday in waters claimed by Norway, in the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic, for suspected illegal fishing.

Two Norwegian inspectors boarded the ship and it was told to go to Norway. But it unexpectedly changed course, with the inspectors on board, and headed for Russian waters instead.

Norwegian authorities said the Elektron had been using illegal fishing equipment which violated quota rules on fishing catches.

Propeller damage

Russian Navy spokesman Igor Dygalo said the inspectors would be handed over once the vessel, escorted by an anti-submarine ship, reached calm waters close to Murmansk on Thursday.

"This question has been solved by the foreign affairs ministries of Russia and Norway. The handover of the inspectors... will take place near the entrance to Murmansk port," he was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying.

He said bad weather had delayed the hand-over.

The move is now scheduled for about 1000 GMT on Thursday, Lieutenant Colonel John Lien of Norway's northern command said, quoted by Reuters news agency.

The BBC's Lars Bevanger, in Oslo, said the Russian coastguard admitted the trawler might have broken fishing regulations.

Disputes between Norway and Russia over fishing rights have become increasingly common.

The Norwegians tried without success to stop the Elektron.

But another Russian trawler which accompanied it, the Grigory Arlashkin, is waiting for help after a net thrown from a Norwegian aircraft wrapped round its propeller.

The boat's captain was quoted as saying in a radio report that his crew was in danger because of a storm in the area.

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