UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 24 -- As Iran continues to distance itself from threats on the life of British author Salman Rushdie, London and Tehran have announced they're upgrading diplomatic relations to the ambassador level. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi ('KAH-mahl Hah-RAH-zee') today announced the diplomatic move.
Cook said, 'Kharrazi and I agreed on the importance of the Islamic and Western worlds working together to prevent a 'clash of civilizations.'' Kharrazi then assured Cook that Iran had 'disassociated itself from any reward whatsoever to threaten the life of the author of 'The Satanic Verses' or anybody associated with his work, nor will it encourage or assist anybody to do so.' Kharrazi added, 'Accordingly the government disassociates itself from any reward, which has been offered in this regard and does not support it.' Both men are in New York to attend the opening of the U.N. General Assembly. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called the move 'an important step.' She said, 'The Iranian government itself has really distanced itself from this issue and from the question of the bounty.' The 1989 death decree came from the late Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran's supreme religious leader at the time. Several large bounties then were offered for Rushdie's head. Diplomatic relations between Britain and Iran broke off after Khomeini issued the 'fatwa,' or death decree. ---
Copyright 1998 by United Press International. All rights reserved. ---