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Last Updated: Monday, 26 March 2007, 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK
An Iranian view on the stand-off
HMS Cornwall
The sailors and marines are from HMS Cornwall
Dr Ali Pahlavan is the executive editor of Iran News, an independent newspaper published in Tehran.

He spoke on BBC Radio 4's Today programme about the current standoff with Britain over the arrests of Royal Navy personnel.

Do you know where the sailors are being held?

The suspicion is that they are in Tehran. The only official government line is that they crossed into Iranian territorial waters and confessed to it.

My understanding of the situation is that this could be a reaction to the UN sanctions which were passed two days ago... the revolutionary guards had promised that some sort of reaction would be forthcoming from Iran.

The revolutionary guards are a very hard line, ultra-conservative wing of the regime who believe that the US and Britain need to be challenged in the Persian Gulf and in the Middle East... their interests need to be challenged in Palestine, in Lebanon, in Iraq and elsewhere.

So this could be part of the strategy to challenge the British and American supremacy in this part of the world which is troubling. It could lead to confrontation and be a trigger and which could lead to escalation.

How does the situation differ from two years ago when British sailors were seized?

To understand the differences you need to follow the rhetoric of President Ahmadinejad and the revolutionary guards in the past couple of years.

Two years ago when British sailors were seized, there was a different Iranian government which was more moderate and more reformist.

But now the revolutionary guard is the government; it is very different situation as the crisis over the nuclear issue is at a very critical stage... the revolutionary guards are of the view that the UK and the US should be pushed and their interests need to be threatened. So this is a serious situation.

But the British are more diplomatically astute and understand Persia... if it was American servicemen or the American marines, this could have led to war.

So there is some hope - at least on my part - that believes in a few days or a few weeks this could be resolved. But then again you never know.

How worrying is the current situation?

I am worried because it's very different than the 2004 incident. The revolutionary guard is the government now.

So it is troubling and it is worrying. Many of us analysts had predicted an incident in the Persian Gulf, which is very crucial to the global economy and to Western interests and could trigger something disastrous.

How are most Iranian people reacting to the situation?

We can't really assess it because right now in Iran it's the Persian New Year holidays and most people are on vacation. Offices are closed and the city of Tehran, which is the political heart of the country.

But if the situation escalates and continues to be the kind of crisis that I think it is, this could be very troubling.

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