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The Times: ‘All Britain has to do is to admit they made a mistake’

EXTRACT: Shell would be one of the biggest losers if diplomatic relations between Britain and Iran were to break down further. The company is part of a £5 billion project to export liquefied natural gas from Iran, which is the world’s fourth-big-gest oil exporter.

THE ARTICLE

March 30, 2007
By Michael Theodoulou and David Robertson

Many Iranians have yet to see the footage of Faye Turney that has caused such outrage in Britain, but few who did shared the sense of revulsion and shock.

“The interview was definitely staged but that doesn’t mean her confession isn’t true,” a well-travelled 59-year-old businessman in Tehran said.

“It was clear that the woman didn’t know they were in Iranian waters at first but it’s obvious she’s now been persuaded they were,” he told The Times: “All Britain has to do is to admit they made a mistake and they will be freed.”

Maryam, 23, a British-educated journalist in Tehran, interpreted Ms Turney’s smoking as evidence that she was free to do so and also that she was under stress. “The woman did not look comfortable,” she said.

The social taboo on women smoking in public has long been broken, particularly in the more affluent and westernised suburbs of north Tehran.

The interview was first broadcast on al-Alam, an Arabic-language satellite channel with close links to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. The national Farsi-language stations, which are watched by the vast majority of Iranians, led the news bulletins on Wednesday night with flood warnings and a traffic story. A shorter, edited version of the interview was broadcast 12 minutes into the main bulletin.

Many Iranians are out of touch with the news because Iran is celebrating its two-week-long New Year holidays and no newspapers have been published for days.

The silence of Iran’s most powerful figures and the sparse coverage suggests the regime is aware that few ordinary Iranians believe that a showdown with Britain is in Iran’s interests, despite popular mistrust of a country frequently demonised as the “little Satan”, “arrogant old coloniser” and “perfidious Albion”.

Iran’s decision to aim the footage mainly at an Arab audience showed the desire of regime hardliners to appeal to popular sentiment in the wider region that is highly critical of the British and American presence in Iraq, analysts said.

The symbolism of Ms Turney and the other Britons supposedly being well treated was apparently intended to highlight tacitly the contrasting plight of America’s prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

Hardline Iranian students, who on Wednesday staged a mock trial for the 15 Britons, called for them to be executed as spies.

“Once again the sinister and unclean regime of Britain was embarrassed and the arrest of 15 British aggressors once again proved to the world that the satanic awe of Britain could be smashed,” the students said in a statement.

Shell would be one of the biggest losers if diplomatic relations between Britain and Iran were to break down further.

The company is part of a £5 billion project to export liquefied natural gas from Iran, which is the world’s fourth-big-gest oil exporter.

Other British businesses with ties to Iran include BMED, which flies five times a week to Tehran, HSBC, which has a “representative office”, Standard Chartered and Unilever.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article1588817.ece

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