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Diplomat: Moslems In Britain Being Trained In Terror

February 26, 1989

LONDON (AP) _ A Middle Eastern diplomat said Saturday pro-Iranian Moslems were receiving terrorist training in at least five places in England, so authorities should take seriously Iran’s death threat against novelist Salman Rushdie.

The senior diplomat in London told The Associated Press that Islamic cultural centers in Bradford, Leicester and Manchester and at least two in London were bases for Iranian and Lebanese members of Hezbollah, or Party of God, a pro-Iranian extremist group.

Hezbollah members are training British-based Moslems to use weapons and make bombs, said the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

He said Britain’s MI5 counter-espionage organization and Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorist unit were aware of the terrorist training. Scotland Yard would not comment.

Rushdie, born into a Moslem family in India, is a British citizen and lives in London. He has been in hiding since Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini told Moslem zealots on Feb. 14 he should die for his book ″The Satanic Verses.″

Many Moslems believe ″The Satanic Verses″ insults Islam.

In Lebanon on Saturday, the leader of a group allied with Hezbollah called on Moslems in Britain to kill the 41-year-old author.

Hussein Musawi, head of Islamic Amal, told Shiite Moslems in the city of Baalbek: ″We have to take the initiative and speed up taking part in Rushdie’s execution.″

Iran’s president, Ali Khameini, reasserted his country’s intention to punish Rushdie.

Speaking to reporters in Bucharest, Romania, where he ended an official visit Saturday, Khameini said, ″One man ... allowed himself to insult the deepest feelings of millions of Moslims in the name of freedom.″

″This is no longer freedom of thought but a crime, and that is why (Rushdie) has to be punished,″ he said.

Rushdie apologized Feb. 18 for any distress ″The Satanic Verses″ had caused, but Khomeini was unmoved. Iranian religious leaders have put a $5.2 million bounty on his head.

Rushdie, in his first public comments since going into hiding, wrote in a book review published Sunday that he felt a sense of kinship with novelist Philip Roth, who was criticized by Jews for his 1959 novel, ″Goodbye, Columbus.″

Reviewing Roth’s autobiography, ″The Facts,″ in The Observer weekly, Rushdie said: ″I was able to recognize in myself the curious lethargy, the soporific torpor, that overcomes Roth while he is under attack; to recognize, too, the stupid, humiliated rage that leads him to cry: ’I’ll never write about Jews again,‴ Rushdie wrote in The Observer, a London weekly.

″His responses to being so vilified have been - if I may be forgiven a personal note - very moving, even helpful, to this similarly beleaguered writer,″ Rushdie wrote.

Iran’s official Islamic News Agency reported Saturday that Khomeini’s designated successor, Xasaid Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri, said Iran’s ″firm stance″ showed the strength of the Islamic republic.

The agency, monitored in Cyprus, also said Montazeri criticized Arab governments for remaining silent on the controversy.

The book has been banned in Egypt and Jordan but has attracted little comment from government officials.

Iran has banned the book, as have South Africa, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Maylaysia, where Islam is the official religion, outlawed the book Saturday.

Britain last week ordered all its diplomats in Tehran home. The other 11 nations that belong to the Common Market then announced they were withdrawing top-ranking diplomats from Iran.

Foreign Secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe of Britain said Saturday he was encouraged by the range of countries that had recalled envoys.

He noted that Canada, Norway and Sweden had joined the 12-nation European Economic Community in withdrawing their diplomatic chiefs from Iran. He also said ″a number of other countries,″ which he did not name, were joining in the condemnation.

Howe praised leaders of predominanlty Moslem nations for not endorsing the death threat and cited Pakistan as an example of a Moslem country that ″has been prepared to uphold the rule of law against violent protest.″

Six people have died in Pakistan in demonstrations against the book. At least 10 people have died in protests in India, including nine killed Friday.

On Saturday, India’s governing Congress party denounced Khomeini’s death threat.

″We never subscribe to the views expressed by people who want a terrorist or violent action against an individual,″ the Press Trust of India news agency quoted party General Secretary K.N. Singh as saying.

Update hourly