Iran Nears Break With Britain; Kadafi Backs Rushdie Death Sentence

From Times Wire Services

Iran appeared ready Monday to cut ties with Britain over “The Satanic Verses,” and Iran’s official news agency said that Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi is supporting the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s order that British author Salman Rushdie be killed for blaspheming Islam.

The news agency IRNA said that Kadafi supports the death decree, which a radical Palestinian leader vowed Sunday would be carried out by his guerrillas.

The United States on Monday condemned radical Palestinian leader Ahmed Jibril’s vow to kill Rushdie and called on Syria, where his group is based, to prevent it.

Western condemnation led by Britain of Khomeini’s call for Rushdie’s death provoked Tehran into setting a deadline of March 7 for London to recant and denounce the Indian-born writer or have their diplomatic ties broken.


IRNA said Monday there has been no indication that statements by British leaders have gone far enough to meet Iran’s demands, and a break appeared imminent.

In Vienna, Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze, in a reference to the Rushdie affair, suggested Monday that the West should show respect for Iran’s values. But he also pledged that Moscow would not seek to profit from the crisis in relations between Western countries and Tehran.

In Jordan, an Islamic country, Religious Affairs Minister Abdulaziz Khayyat said Khomeini’s call does not conform to Islamic law.

“It is not Islam’s way of confronting deviationists, refuters and disfigurers of Islam and apostates,” he said.

Rushdie, 41, now in hiding under guard in Britain, was born into a Muslim family in Bombay, India.

In Israel, where 14% of the population is Muslim, Chief Rabbi Avraham Shapira urged that the book be banned to avoid offense. He also criticized Khomeini’s death order, saying it was not up to any man to impose such a sentence. “It is in the hands of heaven,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Cyprus-based oil industry newsletter Middle East Economic Survey said that France and Japan have asked their oil companies to restrict purchases of Iranian crude oil. Such cutbacks could hinder Iran’s plans to rebuild its oil industry, an important source of revenue as Iran tries to recover from its eight-year war with Iraq, the newsletter said.