LONDON, Jan. 20 (UPI) -- British authorities are downplaying an Iranian leader's reaffirmation of a fatwa against author Salman Rushdie.
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told Muslims making the annual pilgrimage to Mecca Rushdie's killing would be authorized by Islam, according to a story in the Times of London citing Iranian media. The leader's words came in a diatribe against "Western and Zionist capitalists" and the U.S.-led war on terror.
The late Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989 issued the fatwa, or religious edict, over Rushdie's book, "Satanic Verses," which contains alleged blasphemous statements.
British officials say they consider the Iranian government's disassociation with the fatwa in 1998 still valid, even though Khomeini declared it would always stand.
"The original fatwa was issued by Ayatollah Khomeini shortly before he died," one British official said. "It can only be rescinded by the man who issued it or a higher authority so in practice, it will hold indefinitely," the official said, adding that Khamenei's mention of Rushdie is standard rhetoric.
Rushdie now lives in New York.