European Economic Community foreign ministers decided Monday that member nations may send their ambassadors back to Iran, but a ban on high-level visits will continue, Britain’s foreign secretary said.
The 12 Common Market nations recalled their envoys Feb. 20 in response to the order by Iran’s leader, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, that author Salman Rushdie be killed.
Khomeini and other Muslims believe that Rushdie--a British citizen born in India--blasphemed Islam in his novel “The Satanic Verses.” The 88-year-old Iranian patriarch pronounced the death sentence Feb. 14. Rushdie, 41, has been in hiding since that time.
Britain closed its Tehran mission altogether, and Iran broke relations early this month. Geoffrey Howe, the British foreign secretary, said Monday “there is no change in our own position” and the mission in Tehran will not reopen.
At their regular monthly meeting in Brussels, the foreign ministers agreed to let each member country decide whether its ambassador would return to Tehran.
“The strength and unity of our condemnation remains unqualified,” Howe told reporters, referring to Khomeini’s execution order.
Ambassadors who return will carry protest messages reaffirming the community’s view that death threats “are intolerable” and have no place in relations between nations, Howe said.
Diplomatic sources said that Ireland, Italy and Greece indicated they would return their envoys to the Iranian capital soon, but West Germany, the Netherlands and France said they have not decided.
Howe said that a ban on high-level visits to Iran, part of the Feb. 20 decision to recall the ambassadors, remains in force. Iran responded to the recall by withdrawing its envoys from those countries.