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Monday, September 28, 1998 Published at 02:24 GMT 03:24 UK

World: Middle East

Rushdie 'enrages' Muslims

Rushdie is accused of inflaming Muslim hatred again

Remarks made by Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie after his emergence from hiding this week will increase Muslim hatred towards him, according to Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman.

BBC's Jim Muir: A hornet's nest in Iranian politics
Mahmoud Mohammadi, who is tipped to be Iran's new ambassador to Britain, also repeated that the death edict placed on the writer in 1989 was irrevocable.

Mr Rushdie was enjoying his first taste of freedom this week after the Iranian Government distanced itself from the fatwa.

[ image: Rushdie: No apology]
Rushdie: No apology
The late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, spiritual leader of the Iranian revolution, issued the edict against Mr Rushdie for blasphemy against Islam in his book The Satanic Verses.

But on Thursday, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi stated that Iran had no intention of carrying out the decree.

The announcement immediately led to a decision by the two countries to exchange ambassadors, for the first time since 1989.

Hardline backlash

But the BBC's Middle East correspondent, Jim Muir, says there are signs of a hardline backlash against the government's move.

On Sunday, Tehran radio quoted Mr Mohammadi as saying: ''The irrevocability of the late Imam's edict is a fact.''

[ image: Kharrazi made a political error say hardliners]
Kharrazi made a political error say hardliners
He added: "Rushdie's insulting remarks will certainly increase the hatred of the Muslims of the world towards him.''

It was not spelt out which comments he was referring to.

At a news conference on Friday Mr Rushdie said he did not regret writing The Satanic Verses and would not apologise for it.

Asked whether he would bow to demands to have it removed from bookstores, Mr Rushdie replied: "There is not a chance in hell of the book being withdrawn. We have not fought a battle for freedom of speech to give in at the last moment."

Hardline newspaper issues threat

After talks with his British counterpart Robin Cook, Mr Kharrazi also said the Iranian Government did not endorse a $2.5m reward placed on Mr Rushdie's head by a religious foundation.

But the hardline conservative newspaper Jomhuri Eslami warned on Sunday that Mr Rushdie's execution may not be far off.

It criticised Mr Kharrazi for making a "political error", and added: "Whatever he says, nothing will change for Rushdie. His optimism and that of his supporters may even pave the way for a speedier execution of the sentence against him."

The paper insisted the $2.5m bounty on Mr Rushdie's head "will remain valid as long as the fatwa does."

"It is evident that any promises made to the contrary are a personal opinion with no link with the Islamic regime," it said.

Iranian officials say the fatwa could only have been lifted by Ayatollah Khomeini, who died shortly after issuing it.

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