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ANKARA (Reuters) - Iran urged regional rival Saudi Arabia on Thursday to free three Iranian fishermen, pay compensation for shooting dead a sailor and punish those behind an "irresponsible act", the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

Iranian media reported last week that Saudi border guards had opened fire on Iranian fishing boats in the Gulf, killing a fisherman. The Saudi Information Ministry said it had detained three members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards in the incident.

"The fishermen were not armed ... Saudi guards killed one of the sailors by opening fire on the boats," Fars quoted a statement published by Iran's Interior Ministry.

"Those detained fishermen should be freed ... compensation should be paid for the one killed and those involved in the irresponsible act should be punished."

Riyadh has said the vessel, seized last Friday, was carrying explosives and those captured intended to conduct a "terrorist act" in Saudi territorial waters.

The Iranian interior ministry statement denied the Saudi claim, saying the three fishing boats had legal documents and departed Iran's southern port of Bushehr for fishing but lost their way.

"Shooting at fishing boats is against the humanitarian and Islamic norms," it said.

"One group of the fishermen could steer their boat back onto the main course, but the two other boats were driven towards the shared sea borders with Saudi Arabia, unaware of their situation or unable to control the vessels," it said.

Shi'ite dominated Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia accuse each other of fomenting tension in the Middle East, where the two arch rivals back opposite sides in conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Iraq.

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Alison Williams)

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