NICOSIA, CYPRUS, AUG. 4 -- Iran said today that recent remarks by British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd about author Salman Rushdie had met Tehran's requirements for restoring diplomatic ties with London.
Iran broke relations with Britain last March after London refused Tehran's demands that it condemn Rushdie and his novel "The Satanic Verses." Iran's religious leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, ordered Moslems to kill Rushdie last year, saying his novel had blasphemed Mohammed, the prophet of Islam.
In a letter made public Wednesday, Hurd expressed respect for Islam and said the book was offensive to Moslems. "There is no question of the British government or people wishing to insult Islam," Hurd said in the letter to a fellow member of Parliament.
Tehran Radio said a meeting of Iran's National Security Council, presided over by President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, urged the Foreign Ministry to work toward establishing normal links with Britain.
The radio quoted Hussein Musavian, a senior Foreign Ministry official for West European affairs, as saying the meeting decided there was no longer any legal obstacle to full diplomatic relations with Britain. Referring to Hurd's remarks, the radio said: "On this basis the obstacles to the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Iran and Britain have been eliminated and the Foreign Ministry was delegated by the council to take the necessary steps to reestablish ties."
In London, the British Foreign Office said it had notedtoday's report with interest. "Nevertheless obstacles to better relations remain. We are looking for a substantive gesture of goodwill from the Iranian authorities," a spokesman said. Government sources said this was a reference to the detention in Iran of British businessman Roger Cooper and the fate of British hostages held by pro-Iranian groups in Lebanon.
Musavian said the meeting was attended by Parliament Speaker Mahdi Karrubi and Iran's chief judge, Ayatollah Mohammed Yazdi, both considered radical fundamentalist hard-liners within the Iranian leadership.