World : Britain, Iran Spar on Who Made Call

<i> From Times wire services </i>

Britain and Iran contradicted each other today over which side had approached the other to discuss the Salman Rushdie crisis.

A Foreign Office spokesman in London said Tehran had phoned on Wednesday and today suggesting a meeting in Geneva on Iran’s threat to break diplomatic relations with Britain. In Tehran, a Foreign Ministry official denied the London report and said Iran had rejected an approach from Britain. The Foreign Office spokesman said Britain did not see any merit in a meeting at this stage. “The essential first step is that Iran renounces the use of violence.”

Britain has demanded that Iran’s spiritual leader, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, lift a death order he imposed on Rushdie for blasphemy against Islam in his novel “The Satanic Verses.”