Iranian treasures bound for Britain





Across a conference table in an Iranian vice president's office, tea and sweet pastries are offered before cultural diplomacy.

An ancient clay cylinder, regarded by scholars as the world's first declaration of human rights, helps to seal a deal that could open a new diplomatic channel between Britain and Iran.

On the table is a symbol rarely seen in Tehran, unless it's being burned by protesters outside the British embassy. A mini Union Jack stands alongside an Iranian flag.

I'd been warned that, as a BBC journalist, I might not be welcomed into this Iranian government building in traffic-jammed downtown Tehran.

The launch of the BBC's Persia TV service has prompted a furious denouncement of British 'spies' in the country.

But as I've arrived in esteemed company, I'm waved through and - most surprisingly - offered a seat at the conference table.

To my left Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, whispers: "Well, that's a result."

Facing us on the Iranian side is a team led by a deputy vice-president.

Mr MacGregor's primary role is to secure the loan of artefacts, ornaments and Persian silk carpets for the British Museum's forthcoming exhibition Shah Abbas: The Remaking of Iran.

The third in a quartet of planned shows about great emperors, the exhibition will reveal how the roots of modern Iran can be traced back more than 400 years, to the reign of the greatest leader of the Safavid dynasty...



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