Iran Nuclear NewsBritain takes case against Iran to U.N.

Britain takes case against Iran to U.N.


AP: Britain took its case to free its 15 sailors and marines held by Iran to the United Nations on Thursday, asking the Security Council to support a statement that would “deplore” Tehran’s action and demand their immediate release. Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – Britain took its case to free its 15 sailors and marines held by Iran to the United Nations on Thursday, asking the Security Council to support a statement that would “deplore” Tehran’s action and demand their immediate release.

But Security Council diplomats said the brief press statement circulated by Britain’s U.N. Mission is likely to face problems from Russia and others because it says the Britons were “operating in Iraqi waters” – a point the Iranian government contests.

The British announcement that it would seek the condemnation came as Iran rolled back on its promise to release the sole female British sailor among the captives. The Iranian military chief, Gen. Ali Reza Afshar, said that owing to the “wrong behavior” of the British government, “the release of a female British soldier has been suspended,” the semiofficial Iranian news agency Mehr reported.

Prime Minister Tony Blair’s official spokesman dismissed a suggestion Wednesday by Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki that Britain should resolve the crisis by admitting that its personnel had made a “mistake” and crossed into Iranian waters.

Instead, Britain sought a U.N. declaration condemning the detentions, a Foreign Office official had said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the subject.

The standoff and broader tensions in the Gulf region helped fuel a spike in world oil prices.

Mottaki had said Wednesday that sailor Faye Turney, 26, would be released within 48 hours. Britain said it was halting all discussion with Iran except negotiations to free the detained sailors, and expressed outrage over Iran’s broadcast of images of the captured service members.

Before telling The Associated Press it was seeking condemnation of Iran, Britain said it had asked the Security Council on Thursday to support a call for the immediate release of the detainees. The British government said that its sailors and marines were seized Friday after completing a search of a civilian ship near the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab waterway, which forms the border between Iran and Iraq, under a mandate from the Security Council and at the request of Iraq. Iran says the British vessels were inside its territorial waters.

The issue was expected to be debated Thursday at the United Nations.

Negotiator Ali Larijani said on Iranian state radio that: “British leaders have miscalculated this issue.”

If Britain follows through with its policies toward Iran, Larijani said “this case may face a legal path” – a clear reference to Iran’s prosecuting the sailors in court.

Blair’s official spokesman said Britain wanted to resolve the crisis quickly and without having a “confrontation over this.”

“We are not seeking to put Iran in a corner. We are simply saying, ‘Please release the personnel who should not have been seized in the first place,”‘ said the spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government policy.

In the video broadcast Wednesday on Iran’s Arab-language satellite channel, Turney said her group had “trespassed” in Iranian waters. The segment showed her wearing a black head scarf, sitting in a room before floral curtains and smoking a cigarette.

“Obviously we trespassed into their waters,” Turney said. “They were very friendly and very hospitable, very thoughtful, nice people. They explained to us why we’ve been arrested. There was no harm, no aggression.”

Britain’s Ministry of Defense released coordinates that it said proved the captured naval personnel were seized 1.7 nautical miles inside Iraqi waters.

Oil prices rose by more than $1 a barrel Wednesday to a six-month high as the U.S. Navy completed its largest show of force in the Gulf since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

President Bush has discussed the 15 Britons with Blair, White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said, and fully backs the British position.

Associated Press writers Tariq Panja in London, Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran, Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations and Salah Nasrawi in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, contributed to this report.

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