In a radio interview with the BBC yesterday, 10 days before the fourth anniversary of the death sentence, Mr Rushdie said he would not be taking any 'stupid' risks but added: 'I'm trying to do what's sensible to do. I've had it, frankly, with this kind of stuff.'
As a public demonstration of government support in the light of Iran's entrenched defiance, the Foreign Office invited Mr Rushdie to a meeting with the Minister of State, Douglas Hogg. Mr Hogg reiterated what Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, said two days earlier - that Iran's failure to repudiate the fatwa 'inevitably prevents the establishment of full and friendly relations between Britain and Iran'.
President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani told a press conference in Tehran on Sunday that as the death sentence over Rushdie's book The Satanic Verses was passed by the late Ayatollah Khomeini it could never be lifted. 'Only the person who issued it . . . can change it,' he declared.
Mr Hogg told Mr Rushdie of continuing government efforts on his behalf, such as Britain's policy of raising the issue at every meeting with Iranian officials, and its increasing practice of bringing up the matter in international forums - the United Nations, the European Community and most recently by Mr Hurd at the Council of Europe.
Iranian sources, however, said the only way the current leadership would consider rescinding the fatwa was by invoking Khomeini's 'concept of expediency' - whereby, if the survival of the Islamic state was in danger, the Islamic government could choose to override all other Islamic precepts. 'That would have to mean something like the rest of the world going to war with Iran over Rushdie, which is unlikely,' said one source.
The death sentence has not caused Mr Rushdie to forgo his public profile. He has appeared in public several times over the past year, making speeches and attending literary functions. He has also travelled to Ireland and the United States. A Foreign Office spokesman said about Mr Rushdie's emergence from hiding that he enjoyed 'the same rights to freedom of speech and travel as any other British citizen', adding 'it's his decision. We don't want to put obstacles in his way.'
Mr Rushdie complained that he had had to pay a quarter of the pounds 1m cost of his round-the-clock protection. 'The fact is I've probably paid out of my own pocket over the last three years more than a quarter of a million pounds towards aspects of this. That's quite a lot for a writer.
'Any government has a duty to protect its citizens against assassination by another government. There's plenty of people who get protection against the IRA . . . Nobody suggests they should pay for it,' Mr Rushdie told the BBC.
Last year an Iranian foundation raised the bounty for anyone who carries out the fatwa to more than pounds 1.4bn, plus expenses. Britain expelled a number of Iranian embassy staff accused of plotting to carry out the death sentence.
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