The UN Security Council today unanimously expressed "grave concern" at the detention of 15 British crew members by Iran but stopped well short of Britain's call to criticize Tehran.
The 15-member council turned back Britain's request for a call for the immediate liberation of its naval personnel because of strong opposition from Russia.
Agence France-Presse (AFP) quoted UN diplomats that Russia, backed by some other council members such as Indonesia, wanted to avoid giving the impression that the council was taking sides in what was seen as a bilateral dispute, particularly on the issue of exactly where the 15 Britons were seized.
AFP reported that the original British draft would have the Security Council "deplore the continuing detention by the Government of Iran of 15 UK naval personnel" and back "calls for (their) immediate release". It stated that "the UK personnel were operating in Iraqi waters as part of the Multinational Force-Iraq under a mandate from the Security Council under Resolution 1723 (2006) and at the request of the government of Iraq."
The final statement adopted avoided the issue of whether the incident took place in Iranian or Iraqi waters.
Iran also withdrew an offer to free the only female British detainee. Tehran released a second letter apparently written by the captured woman, 26-year-old Faye Turney, in which she suggested it was time for Britain to withdraw its troops from Iraq.
The world oil prices soared to six-month highs on the spike in tension.
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