House Stays Silent On Iranian Capture Of British Sailors

Friday, March 30th 2007, 3:08 pm
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Members of the House left Washington on Friday for their two-week spring break without weighing in on the international crisis tormenting the nation's closest ally: the capture of 15 British sailors and marines by Iran.

The omission by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is being noted by some Republicans, who say they should have gotten the chance to join the Senate in denouncing Tehran's bold actions.

``I am very disappointed that the speaker chose not to act,'' said Rep. Charles Dent, R-Pa.

``I believe it's important for us as Americans to show our solidarity with the Britons,'' he added in a phone interview Friday. ``The British are our closest allies, and I think we have to stand next to them in a moment like this.''

The Senate on Thursday, before adjourning for its one-week break, passed a resolution condemning the act ``in the strongest possible terms'' and calling for the sailors ``immediate, safe and unconditional release.''

Pelosi's spokesman Brendan Daly said the speaker was reluctant to weigh in on the incident without knowing that such a message would do more good than harm. Daly said the British government had not asked Congress to try to pressure Tehran.

``The leadership discussed it and agreed that inserting Congress into an international crisis while ongoing would not be helpful,'' Daly said.

Pelosi is traveling in the Middle East, where she plans to visit Syria, Israel and the West Bank.

The sailors were seized on March 23 off the Iraqi coast while searching merchant ships for evidence of smuggling. Britain insists the seven Royal marines and eight sailors were taken in Iraqi waters and has said no admission of error would be made.

Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., says Congress should not only call for the release of the British personnel but also should press the United Nations to explore harsher sanctions against Tehran.

Cantor, the GOP's chief deputy whip, pressed Pelosi this week to pass the measure.

``The illegal seizure of the British forces is a signal that Iran views us as powerless to prevent it from realizing its aggressive ambitions,'' Cantor wrote in a letter to Pelosi.