Expulsion of Iranians criticised

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The Independent Online
A backbench Tory MP yesterday criticised the decision to expel three Iranians for allegedly plotting to kill the author, Salman Rushdie.

Peter Temple-Morris, the MP for Leominster, told BBC Radio 4's Sunday programme he regretted the Foreign Office decision to expel the three, two of whom work at the Iranian embassy in London, because it would harm relations with Iran.

'I think the Iranian embassy here has been trying their very best in a very difficult situation, particularly in Tehran, to improve relations between our two countries,' the MP said. He had known one of the three, press section employee Mahmoud Mehdi Soltani, for about two years. 'He's as far away from being an assassin as you can imagine.'

The late Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini ordered Mr Rushdie's murder following the publication of his novel, The Satanic Verses, which extremist Muslims claim blasphemes against Islam.

Any reference to Mr Rushdie was enough to inflame the situation in Tehran, Mr Temple-Morris said, and when allegations of assassination plots were made, enough detail should be provided to make them credible. 'Nothing about this makes it credible at all, I am afraid.'

Mr Temple-Morris also criticised Mr Rushdie for campaigning for his cause, particularly for a recent visit to the House of Commons, which he said had a 'deleterious' effect on Britain's relations with Iran.

'The best thing one can do is to counsel Mr Rushdie to do his normal work, but not to fan the flames,' the MP said.