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Wednesday, June 23, 2004

British sailors are latest pawns in Iranian politics 

The Christian Science Monitor digs below the surface of the capture and apparent release of eight British sailors.

The incident threatened to devolve into a new chapter in the longstanding internal battle between hard-liners and reformers, when Iranian television showed blind-folded sailors on Tuesday, and said they would be prosecuted. Neither side in the past has hesitated to use diplomatic incidents to embarrass the other, and let the internal tug of war spill over onto the international stage.

By press time, even with explicit promises of release by both Iranian and British officials, broadcasts in English and Farsi appeared to contradict each other over whether the release would in fact take place.

One veteran political analyst in Tehran suggests that the arrest was an act by hard-liners, which then became a problem for the less conservative government of President Mohamad Khatami. Similar incidents in the past were easily solved, and never flared to such a political issue.

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