UK fails to win UN support for Iran statement

Britain failed to win Security Council support Thursday for a statement that would "deplore" Iran's detention of 15 British sailors and call for their immediate release, council diplomats said. A senior Iranian official suggested Iran may put the British captives on trial. After more than four hours of closed-door talks, ambassadors from the 15 council nations were still trying to agree on a watered-down press statement. "It doesn't look like we're going to come to agreement today - perhaps we'll take this up again tomorrow," US deputy ambassador Jackie Sanders said. One compromise that would note the council's concern about the detention of the naval personnel and call for their immediate release was rejected by Russia, the diplomats said. Russia proposed instead that the statement take note of the general situation and call for humanitarian access, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the discussions were private. Britain asked the 14 other Security Council members on Wednesday to approve a statement which would "deplore the continuing detention by the government of Iran" of the 15 naval personnel who "were operating in Iraqi waters" as part of the US-led multinational force in Iraq under a council mandate. A press statement is the weakest action the council can take, but the statement must be approved by all 15 council members. A presidential statement, unlike a press statement, also needs consensus but is read at a formal Security Council meeting and becomes part of its official record.