Page last updated at 12:39 GMT, Monday, 22 February 2010

Iran to ban airlines not using the term 'Persian Gulf'

By Jon Leyne
BBC News

A Virgin Atlantic Airways Airbus
Airlines that fail to comply with the ruling will be banned or detained

Iran has warned that airlines will be banned from flying into its airspace, unless they use the term "Persian Gulf" on their in-flight monitors.

The transport minister has threatened to impound planes that fail to comply.

The nation is most insistent that the stretch of water separating it from its southern neighbours should be known as the Persian Gulf.

To call it the Gulf, annoys the authorities; to call it the Arabian Gulf, infuriates them even more.

Map of Gulf region
BBC style is to refer to the body of water between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula as the Gulf
Iran calls it the Persian Gulf, also the more historically recognised term
Saudi Arabia and most other Arab states insist on calling it the Arabian Gulf

Conferences are held to make the matter quite clear, an ancient map with definitive proof of the correct name was sent on a world tour.

And recently a foreign member of the cabin crew working for an Iranian airline was sacked and expelled from Iran when he got it wrong.

Now the Iranian transport minister has given foreign airlines 15 days to change the name to Persian Gulf on their in flight monitors.

If they failed, they would be prevented from entering Iranian airspace, he warned.

And if the offence was repeated, foreign airliners would be grounded and refused permission to leave Iran.

Numerous Arab airlines fly into Iran every day, not to mention Europeans and others, so it remains to be seen how they will respond.

As for the minister, Hamid Behbahani, it may or may not be a coincidence that he is making a stand on this patriotic matter at a time when he is facing calls for his impeachment for alleged lack of competence.

Jon Leyne is the BBC's Tehran correspondent. He is reporting from London after being forced to leave by the Iranian government for reporting on protests in June 2009.

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