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US, UK urge UN probe of Israeli rocket seizure

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.S. and Britain called Thursday for a U.N. investigation of Israel's claim that it intercepted an Iranian shipment of rockets headed for the Gaza Strip.

U.N. officials have said that if Israel's claims are true, Iran would be in violation of Security Council sanctions. U.S. deputy ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo urged the Security Council committee that monitors sanctions against Iran to investigate the incident. She said "the committee should be prepared to impose real consequences, such as possible sanctions designations on those responsible."

British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant called for a similar investigation, saying Israel's claim is "deeply worrying." "This is not the first time that we have seen reports of potential arms transfers to Gaza involving Iran," Lyall Grant noted.

The envoys spoke after a council briefing on the sanctions committee's latest report. The report said Iran had still not replied to inquiries last year on two other incidents: Iran's launches of Shahab 1 and 3 missiles and an intercepted arms shipment in Yemen.

Australia's U.N. Ambassador Gary Quinlan, who chairs the committee, said it continues to call on Iran to provide explanations. Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin urged the committee to refrain from taking any actions that could compromise efforts by six world powers and Iran to reach an agreement on Tehran's nuclear program.

Churkin said "it is critically important that the committee and its panel of experts should operate in a very careful, balanced and objective way." Iran has accused Israel of staging the Red Sea seizure to derail Tehran's improving relations with the West.

Displaying the rockets earlier this month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the international community of falling victim to a charm offensive by the new leadership in Tehran. Netanyahu has been highly critical of the U.S.-backed efforts to negotiate a deal with Iran that would substantially scale back its nuclear program in exchange for ending international sanctions.

Both DiCarlo and Lyall Grant emphasized that the world should continue to vigorously implement sanctions against Iran while negotiations continue. On Wednesday, negotiators for Iran and the six world powers adjourned what they described as "substantial nuclear talks" in Vienna. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said his country is ready to eliminate fears that a reactor it is building could be used to make atomic weapons.

That apparent progress was overshadowed by Russia's warning that its dispute with the West over Ukraine could hurt the Iran nuclear negotiations. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Moscow could take "retaliatory measures" for Western sanctions against Russia that could hurt attempts to persuade Iran to cut back on its nuclear program.

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