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Iran and Britain Soften Tone of Captives Standoff

Iran says it hopes to settle the dispute over the 15 British sailors and marines it has held since it seized them in the Persian Gulf more than a week ago. Ari Larijani, Iran's chief international negotiator, said the issue could be resolved — and that there is no need for the Royal Navy crew to face a trial.

The more moderate tone was mirrored in London, where an official says that Britain will consider discussing with Iran how to avoid future disputes over contested waters in the Persian Gulf.

The seeming progress on the diplomatic front follows several days of heightening tensions.


Over the weekend, angry demonstrations took place outside the British embassy in Tehran. President Mahmoud Ahmedinajad entered the standoff, issuing a statement criticizing Britain for its arrogance. And Iranian state television showed more footage of British captives apologizing for entering Iranian waters.

But today, there were signs that perhaps serious diplomacy has begun. Iranian television said it would not air any more alleged confessions, because of what it called "positive changes" from the British government.

Even if diplomacy is now center-stage, freeing the detained British crew won't necessarily be easy. A British Foreign Office spokeswoman says that differences between the two sides remain.

The standoff has coincided with the Iranian new year, when government offices have been closed, and no newspapers published. With the Iranian government back from the holidays Tuesday, and signs of diplomatic movement, it may be that after 11 days of deadlock, perhaps the two sides are edging toward a deal for the release of the captured crew.

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