Britain announced Wednesday it is expelling about 30 Iranians on security grounds because of Iran’s death threat against novelist Salman Rushdie.
Meanwhile, a Beirut group believed to be holding two American hostages said it has finished plans to kill Rushdie.
The pro-Iranian Revolutionary Justice Organization said it has “completed its preparations to execute the just sentence issued” by Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and that “it will find itself compelled to attack British police posts assigned to protect Rushdie in order to get to him.”
The group, which claims to hold Americans Edward A. Tracy and Joseph J. Cicippio as hostages in Beirut, accompanied its statement with a photograph of Tracy but did not threaten them.
Rushdie, a British citizen who was born into a Muslim family in India, has been in hiding since Feb. 14, when Khomeini sentenced him to death for writing what some Muslims call the blasphemous novel, “The Satanic Verses.” He is thought to be under guard in Britain.
On Wednesday, the British government also warned Britons to get out of Lebanon, saying they are under increased threat after Iran’s severing of diplomatic ties with Britain on Tuesday.
The Foreign Office said the 150 Britons in Lebanon are under “increased threat” from kidnapers because of the break in relations.
Three Britons--Anglican Church envoy Terry Waite, journalist John McCarthy and teacher Brian Keenan--are now believed held by pro-Iranian Shiite Muslims in Lebanon.
On Wednesday, an Iranian newspaper reported that the break in British-Iranian ties will adversely affect the British captives in Lebanon. Kayhan International said “the event will leave its negative impact on the fate of the British hostages.”
In London, Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe said Britain is expelling the Iranians because of Khomeini’s refusal to revoke the death sentence. “We have therefore decided on security grounds a number of Iranians must be required to leave this country,” Howe told the House of Commons.
Government sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that up to 30 Iranians “who are held to be close to the regime” will be expelled soon. There are about 25,000 Iranians in Britain.
Using his strongest language since the controversy began, Howe called the Iranian government a “deplorable regime” and did not rule out the possibility of ending all trade with Iran.
A break in economic ties would prevent Britain from winning contracts to help Iran’s postwar reconstruction, estimated at $500 billion.