UN chief calls for maximum restraint after Iran's attack on Israel

By Daphne Psaledakis and Patricia Zengerle

(Reuters) -United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Sunday warned members not to further escalate tensions with reprisals against Iran, while the U.S. warned the Security Council it would work to hold Tehran accountable at the U.N.

Guterres, speaking to a meeting of the U.N. Security Council, told member states that the U.N. charter bars the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state as he also condemned Iran's attack on Israel.

Iran launched a swarm of explosive drones and fired missiles on Saturday in its first-ever direct attack on Israeli territory, risking a major escalation.

The attack was in response to a suspected Israeli strike on Iran's embassy compound in Syria on April 1 that killed top Revolutionary Guards commanders and followed months of clashes between Israel and Iran's regional allies, triggered by the war in Gaza.

"The Middle East is on the brink. The people of the region are confronting a real danger of a devastating full-scale conflict. Now is the time to defuse and de-escalate," Guterres told the meeting, which was called after Iran's attack.

Robert Wood, deputy U.S. ambassador to the U.N., called on the 15-member body to unequivocally condemn Iran's attack, as he said the Security Council has an obligation to not let Iran's actions go unanswered.

"In the coming days, and in consultation with other member states, the United States will explore additional measures to hold Iran accountable here at the United Nations," he said, without providing specifics.

"Let me be clear: If Iran or its proxies take actions against the United States or further action against Israel, Iran will be held responsible," he said.

Iran's U.N. ambassador, Amir Saeid Iravani, said his country's action was necessary and proportionate, and he said that while Tehran does not seek an escalation or war in the region and has no intention of engaging in conflict with the U.S., it reaffirms its right to defend itself.

"If the U.S. initiates military operations against Iran, its citizens, or its security and interests, Iran will use its inherent right to respond proportionately," he said.

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, accused Iran of violating international law at the meeting and played a video on a tablet that he said showed Israel's interception of Iranian drones above Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound, one of Islam's holiest sites.

"Here, you can look at it," he gestured with the tablet and told the Iranian ambassador, who was also seated in the Security Council chamber.

Erdan called on the Security Council to condemn Iran, reimpose sanctions and designate Iran's Revolutionary Guards a terror organization.

"The snooze button is no longer an option. The only option is to condemn Iran and utilize every means necessary to make them pay a heavy price for their horrible crimes," Erdan told the meeting, which he requested on Saturday.

(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Patricia Zengerle in Washington; Editing by Leslie Adler)