UN Intercedes in Iran Standoff

APAn Iranian protesting in front of the Foreign Ministry in Tehran on Thursday
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met Iran's foreign minister Thursday in the world body's first direct intercession in the escalating standoff between Iran and Britain over Tehran's detention of 15 British sailors and marines.

Nearly a week after the crew's capture in the waters off Iraq and Iran, the two countries remained at loggerheads. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki demanded as a way to resolve the standoff that Britain acknowledge that its personnel entered Iranian waters.

But Britain insisted on Thursday that the crew was seized in an Iraqi-controlled area. A Foreign Office official in London said no admission would be forthcoming because "the detention is completely wrong, illegal and unacceptable and we've set out the reasons why."

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with department policy, pointed to satellite positioning coordinates released by the defense ministry on Wednesday that the military said showed the crew was seized 3.1 kilometers inside Iraqi waters.

Ban met with Mottaki on the sidelines of an Arab summit in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. Ban's spokeswoman, Choi Soung-ah, said the UN secretary-general was addressing a number of issues in the talks and that the detention of the Britons was among them. She would not give immediate details on the talks, which were ongoing.

Tensions over the detention escalated Wednesday as Iranian television aired video of the detained Britons that showed the only female captive saying her group had "trespassed" in Iranian waters. Britain angrily denounced the video as unacceptable and froze most dealings with the Middle Eastern country.

Mottaki also backed off a prediction that the female sailor, Faye Turney, could be freed Wednesday or Thursday, but said Tehran agreed to allow British officials to meet with the detainees.

He said Iran would look into releasing Turney "as soon as possible."

Mottaki said that if the purported entry into Iranian waters was a mistake, "this can be solved. But they have to show that it was a mistake. That will help us to end this issue."

"Admitting the mistake will facilitate a solution to the problem," Mottaki said,