"The European Union welcomes the new Iranian government's stated commitment to respect the rule of law and their emphasis on the need for a dialogue of civilisations," a statement from the Foreign Office said. Britain holds the presidency of the EU. But signs from Iran were not encouraging. A judicial official said the Indian-born British writer must be killed. "The shedding of this man's blood is obligatory," said Morteza Moqtadaie, Iran's chief prosecutor. In a fatwa, or decree, on 14 February, 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini said Rushdie should be killed for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad in his book The Satanic Verses. Since then he has lived largely in hiding and under protection of the British government. "Any Muslim who hears an insult to the Prophet must kill the person who commits the insult. It is better that those closest to that person try to kill him first," Mr Moqtadaie said in a sermon at Tehran University. Worshippers shouted Allahu Akbar [God is great] when he said "Rushdie must die." Mr Moqtadaie, a cleric, said that during his lifetime Muhammad sent two people to cut the throat of a man who had insulted him. "What Khomeini did is exactly what the Prophet did, and this [death sentence] must be preserved."