IRANIAN GIVES UP ON RUSHDIE OR A LOT OF NOISE FOR NOTHING?

PARIS 26TH SEPT. (IPS) The world has applauded, the Secretary General of the United Nations has hailed, the United States has cautiously welcomed, the European Union has expressed its satisfaction, the United Kingdom said it was delighted and immediately normalised its relations by upgrading it to ambassadorial level and even the damned writer, Salman Rushdie has praised the courage of the Iranian government.

All that noise for nothing except with the fact that for the first time, a high ranking Iranian official has reiterated the Iranian official stand on the grand ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeiny's ten years-old contract on the life of the Anglo-Indian author of "The Satanic Verses" in front of international television cameras and recorded at the United Nations Head Quarters in New York.

Well informed Iranian observers and analysts speculated that either the Iranian president had received a blank cheque from his boss, the ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i prior to his visit to New York where he addressed the 53rd session of the UN's General Assembly and told reporters that the Salman Rushdie affair "was completely finished" or Mr. Kharrazi made the statement unaware from the fact that talking in front of television cameras is considered as the equivalent of an official written pledge, something that his predecessor, Mr. Ali Akbar Velayati never did.

Mr. Sadeq Saba the BBC's senior analyst on Iranian affairs said a decision had to be taken at the highest level and with the blessings of the ayatollah Khameneh'i otherwise Mr. Kharrazi would never dare to make such a pledge at the United nations.

Dr Sadeq Ziba Kalam, a professor of political science at Tehran University who is a Khatami supporter voiced similar view.

"Though Kharrazi said nothing new in New York, but there had been more home work, more serious preparation and in any case, Mr. Khatami should have received a direct or indirect permission from the leader on such a sensitive matter", he told the Persian services of the Radio France Internationale.

Diplomatic sources in Tehran said the "deal' was the result of intense secret negotiations at experts level, with the British side insisting for a written pledge that the Iranians would adamantly refuse. "In the event, each side thought it had fooled the other by agreeing on a semantic and cosmetic changes" the source noted.

According to this source who spoke on condition of anonymity, the two sides had even agreed on their future ambassador, adding that Mr. Mahmoud Mohammadi, the present senior spokesman will go to London as the new Iranian ambassador.

In recent months, senior Iranian diplomats including Mr. Ali Ahani, the General Director for American and European Affairs and a Deputy Minister had traveled to London and talked with British counterpart, observers reminded.

In a statement read after meeting with his British counterpart Mr. Robin Cook in the United Nations on Thursday, Mr. Kamal Kharrazi, the Iranian Foreign Minister repeated that while the ayatollah Khomeiny's fatwa against Mr. Rushdie remains in force, but "the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has no intention, nor is it going to take any action 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".

Another novelty in the Iranian statement is that the government "dissociated" itself from "any reward that has been offered in this regard and does not support it", a reference to the 2.5 millions US Dollars bounty offered by the 15 Khordad Foundation to anyone who would carry Mr. Khomeiny's sentence against Mr. Rushdie.

In response to the Iranian "semantic concession", the British government "regretted the offences the book "The Satanic Verses" has caused to Muslims in Iran and elsewhere in the world", an admission that, for the Iranians, can justify their stand.

In his first reaction to the Tehran-London agreement, Mr. Rushdie thanked both Iranian and British governments for their efforts and hoped that he would be able to find "his normal life in a very short period of time and go back writing".

"This is a great day. This is the day of the victory of freedom of expression, the end of a terrible terrorist threat by a government against the citizens of another country. This is a great moment for all those why, by supporting him, supported the freedom of expression throughout the world", Mr. Rushdie said.

However, he refused to offer apology for his book that the Muslim considers as blasphemous to them and their prophet, saying if one has to apologise to another, he must also be offered excuses for the ten years of his life that went lost, those who were killed and those who were threatened.

There was no immediate reaction in Tehran as the Anglo-Iranian statements reached Iran late Thursday afternoon, the beginning of the weekend and both president Khatami who spoke during a parade by Iranian armed forces, and the ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, the hard line Chief of the Judiciary who conducted the Friday priers ignored the news that made world's newspapers headlines.

"It is with Khameneh'i's tradition that after one big humiliation he blow to his antagonists, he gives them a little toy to play with. After recent slapping of Khatami by ordering the closure of a newspaper (Toos) supposed to back the president's policies, after having thrown in prison several of his supporters (5 senior Toos staff) after forcing his left hand man to shift side (Ata'ollah Mohajerani, the Guidance Minister) and after having clipped further his wings, it is quite possible that Khameneh'i has given Khatami this little satisfaction. But one has to wait few days to make a sound judgement" commented one Iranian insider. ENDS RUSHDIE 2699800