Iran on Tuesday severed diplomatic relations with Britain, accusing its government of anti-Islamic “treachery” for refusing to denounce Salman Rushdie’s novel “The Satanic Verses.”
Iran’s Parliament had given Britain one week to lift a diplomatic embargo and “clarify” its stance on the book, which many Muslims consider blasphemous. Tuesday was the deadline.
London blamed Tehran for the break. It came after Britain withdrew all its diplomats from Tehran to protest a Feb. 14 edict by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran’s leader, calling on Muslims to kill Rushdie for insulting Islam.
Rushdie, 41, is a British citizen, and his novel has been published in Britain and other nations.
‘Vilolation of Principles’
“The present situation is entirely of Iran’s making,” the British Foreign Office said in a statement on the diplomatic break. “Incitement to murder is a violation of the most elementary principles and obligations that govern relations between sovereign states.”
Iran did not formally communicate to Britain its decision to end relations, the statement said.
However, the Iranian Foreign Ministry announced the action in a statement quoted by Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency. It accused Britain of being “in the front line of plots and treachery against Islam and Muslims” for two centuries.
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said over the weekend that she believes the novel has deeply offended Muslims, but her government still insists that Iran must revoke the death sentence before relations can be normalized.
Besides Britain, the 11 other European Community nations, plus Norway, Sweden and Canada, have recalled their ambassadors from Iran to protest the death threat.
In London, relatives of Britons believed held hostage by pro-Iranian Islamic radicals in Lebanon said Iran’s decision to break relations will make it harder to free their loved ones. Three Britons are believed to be hostages.