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Sunday, February 15, 1998 Published at 05:16 GMT


Blair meets Rushdie on fatwa anniversary
image: [ Rushdie: Living in secrecy ]
Rushdie: Living in secrecy

The Prime Minister Tony Blair has met the author, Salman Rushdie, to mark the ninth anniversary of the Iranian death threat against the writer.

A government spokesman said the meeting was an expression of support for Mr Rushdie and indicated that Britain intended to keep up pressure on Iran.

The Indian-born British writer has been living in hiding since the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or religious edict, saying he should be killed because his book, The Satanic Verses, was said to be an insult to Islam.

Mr Blair's gesture of support came amid reports that the bounty on Mr Rushdie's life could be increased again.

[ image: Novel said to be an insult to Islam]
Novel said to be an insult to Islam
The state-run Iranian 15 Khordad Foundation which set the original bounty was quoted as saying it might raise the price of $2.5m.

Last year it upped a $2m bounty on Rushdie's head to $2.5m.

The leader of the foundation, Ayatollah Hassan Sanei, was quoted in an Iranian newspaper as saying that commitment to killing Mr Rushdie would only grow stronger with time.

"I think that every day the issue will become more serious. In the near future the arrow shot from the bow will hit its target," he said.

Fatwa has long strained ties

The meeting between Mr Blair and Mr Rushdie followed a statement on Friday by the European Union urging Iran to enter into a dialogue.

Representing the EU, the British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook declared the fatwa was "null and void" because it violated the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

But Iranian officials said the fatwa was irrevocable and expressed "surprise" over the European Union president Britain to negotiate over the matter.


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