The BBC says no BBC Persian staff or stringers work inside Iran

Iranian authorities have cracked down on journalists and bloggers it claims are linked to the banned BBC Persian Service and arrested several people it has accused of having connections to the station.

The semi-official Mehr agency quoted an unnamed source saying the group had engaged in newsgathering for the BBC as well as recruiting and training Iranian journalists for the corporation.

It is unclear how many people are involved, though the New York Times said at least half a dozen journalists and bloggers have been arrested over the past few weeks.

The BBC said: "No BBC Persian staff members or stringers work inside Iran."

The corporation said last week the Iranian regime had been intimidating people working for its Persian Service. In a blog, BBC director general Mark Thompson accused the authorities of using "disturbing new tactics", including the targeting of family members of those working outside Iran.

Crackdown on Press and Bloggers Continues

Ahead of the parliamentary elections in March, the Islamic republic has arrested and detained several journalists.

The Iranian dissident Mehdi Khazali has been sentenced to 14 years in jail,10 years in exile and 90 lashes, Eurasia Review reported.

The report did not state the charge, though Khazali has a blog which he has used to criticise the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the security forces.

He was arrested in January and is in poor health after going on a hunger strike almost a month ago, though is expected to appeal the sentence.