LONDON, DEC. 24 -- Salman Rushdie has promised not to authorize a paperback version of his controversial novel, "The Satanic Verses," a group of Islamic and Egyptian officials announced today.
Rushdie's defense committee confirmed that the statement was genuine.
In a statement released by Hesham el-Essawy, president of the Islamic Society for the Promotion of Religious Tolerance, Rushdie also declared he does not agree with any statements uttered by characters in the book that cast aspersions on Islam, question the authenticity of the Koran or reject the divinity of Allah.
He also agreed not to authorize any further translations of the work.
Earlier this year, Rushdie had pressed for publication of a paperback edition.
"I talked to Salman a couple of minutes ago. That is his statement and he signed it," said Frances D'Souza, who is chairman of Rushdie's defense committee.
Without a paperback, Rushdie said in an interview Sunday with the newspaper the Independent, "in a few years the book simply won't be there for anyone who wants to read it. It will, in all practical terms, have been suppressed."
Rushdie has been in hiding under police guard since February 1989, when Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini said the writer deserved death as a blasphemer.
"This is the way we hope that will earn Rushdie's release from his predicament. This is how we intend to make him a free man," said el-Essawy.
El-Essawy said he met Rushdie on Friday in a secure location.
He said they were joined at the meeting by Mohammed Ali Mahgoub, an Egyptian government official who heads the Supreme Council of Scholars of Islamic Affairs; Youssef Ahmed El Sharkawy, second secretary at the Egyptian Embassy; and two clergymen from the Regent's Park Mosque in London.
According to el-Essawy, Rushdie made four points in the statement:
"1. To witness that there is no God but Allah, and that Mohammed is his last prophet.
"2. To declare that I do not agree with any statement in my novel 'The Satanic Verses' uttered by any of the characters who insults the prophet Mohammed, or casts aspersions upon Islam, or upon the authenticity of the holy Koran, or who rejects the divinity of Allah.
"3. I undertake not to publish the paperback edition of 'The Satanic Verses' or to permit any further agreement for translations into other languages while any risk of further offense exists.
"4. I will continue to work for a better understanding of Islam in the world, as I have always attempted to do in the past."
"The Satanic Verses" has sold more than 1 million copies in English -- almost three-quarters of them in the United States -- and was on the Sunday Times of London's bestseller list for nearly a year. It has been translated into 15 languages and banned in more than 20 countries.
Khomeini died in June 1989, but in February Iranian authorities reaffirmed his fatwa or religious edict.
Rushdie, born in Bombay and now a naturalized British citizen, has been in hiding since Feb. 14, 1989.
Moslems worldwide objected to Rushdie's use of the names of Mohammed's wives for the prostitutes in his novel and the implication that Mohammed wrote the Koran, Islam's holy book, instead of receiving it from God.
A week after Khomeini's death edict, Bombay became the flash point of anti-Rushdie protests that spread to other Indian cities. In the following days, at least 19 people were killed in riots and clashes with police in India and neighboring Pakistan.
Iran later severed diplomatic ties with Britain, accusing it of supporting Rushdie. Diplomatic ties between the two countries were restored 18 months later, in October.