Iran today claimed that British diplomats have begun talks aimed at securing the release of the 15 captured Royal Navy sailors and Royal Marines.
The BBC quoted Iranian state radio as reporting that the head of the Supreme National Security Council, Ali Larijani, had said that discussions were under way with officials at the Foreign Ministry in Tehran.
Last night Mr Larijani told Channel 4 News that Iran wanted to see a diplomatic solution to the crisis. There was no immediate confirmation of talks from the Foreign Office.
"Talks have been going on throughout this situation. They will continue to carry on," a Foreign Office spokeswoman said.
Britain’s former ambassador to Iran Sir Richard Dalton said he was cautiously optimistic today following Mr Larijani’s comments.
He told BBC Breakfast "It looks as though both sides are looking for a way to solve the crisis and to do so in the not-too-distant future.
"They seem to have not had a plan for what to do once the capture had taken place and are making decisions one step at a time.
"If indeed they have a preference for diplomacy, and they are signalling no trial, that is a very positive step that is going to take a weight off the shoulders of people.
"But there was a little bit of conditionality in what Mr Larijani said.
"He is still leaving open the faint possibility of a trial if Britain doesn’t come up to the mark in his eyes and that’s the problem: we don’t quite know what it is that Iran is going to insist on at this stage."
Two of the British servicemen held in Iran were named in reports today as Royal Navy Operator Maintainers Andrew Henderson and Arthur Batchelor.
The group were captured after conducting a routine early morning anti-smuggling check on a merchant vessel on Friday March 23.
Iranian state TV claimed that all 15 of the captured personnel - 14 men and one woman - had now admitted intruding into Iranian territory.
Britain remains adamant that they were in Iraqi waters when they were seized and were being detained against their will.