TEHRAN 24TH JULY (IPS) The Islamic Republic firmly rejected Friday both any dialogue with the US "Satan" as well as lifting the contract against the life of Mr Salman Rushdie.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran welcome friendly relations with all nations, including the European Union, but these nations must accept that removing the fatwa against Salman Rushdie is unthinkable and out of discussion" said the ayatollah Ahmad Jannatti, Secretary of the Council of Guardians.
Speaking during the Friday priers in Tehran, the hard line cleric who is a close associate of the ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i, the supreme religious "guide" of the Islamic Republic reiterated that "the sacred Islamic regime nor the Muslim people of Iran" can not have "any dialogue or relation with the great Satan which is also the strongest supporter of the Zionist usurpers".
Mr Jannati's statement came two days after a team of the EU "Troika" consisting of a Deputy Foreign Minister from Austria, the current president of the European Union, a British Deputy Under Secretary of Foreign Office and a General Director of the German Foreign Ministry visited Tehran and expressed "satisfaction" of its talks with Iranian officials.
"Iran is Islamic and revolutionary. We do accept the principle of relations with countries which are not our enemies and do not seek robbing our wealth unilaterally, but at the same time the Europeans must realise that our Muslim country is ruled by the sacred laws of Islam and the Koran (therefor they must) accept that the fatwa against Salman Rushdie is unalterable", Mr Jannati told the crowd of worshippers.
The statement reflecting the views of the ayatollah Khameneh'i, sharply counters efforts by the reform seeking president Mohammad Khatami to improve relations with the outside world, particularly Europe and possibly the United States, with the aim of salvaging an economic situation experts say it is on the brink of total collapse.
There was no reaction from London where, according to Tehran media, Deputy Under Secretary of State John Allan Shepherd has said that Britain was "determined to upgrade its ties with the Islamic Republic to a favourable level".
"Earlier on Sunday, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for European and American Affairs Morteza Sarmadi told the visiting British Deputy Under Secretary that the Islamic Republic is paying full attention to the Britain's new policies which exhibits taints of altruistic elements and positive initiatives", the official Islamic News Agency IRNA reported from Tehran.
Concerning the sentence of death pronounced ten years ago by the grand ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeiny against the Anglo-Indian author of "The Satanic Verses", Mr Sarmadi was quoted by the Agency to have told the EU "Troika" that "there must be a distinction between sacrilege and insult from freedom of expression, adding that Mr Rushdie's book has insulted belief of world Muslims. This is a clear example of encounter and war of civilisations".
"The great leader, the people, the president, the government, everyone in this country is attached to the values of Islam and the revolution, is against any reconciliation, any relation, any dialogue with America, Islam's greatest enemy all over the world, America which never hesitate to combat Islam worldwide, America which is the strongest supporter of the Zionists. Koran, culture, wisdom and above all our people do not allow friendship with such an implacable enemy", the Ayatollah stated.
In a clear hint to President Khatami's earlier offer for dialogue with the United States, Mr Jannatti lambasted those in Iran who argue in favour of overture towards Washington, accusing them of taking "orders and guidance" from the Americans.
Observers said Mr Jannatti's hard line speech was in the line with the all out offensive launched by the ruling conservatives against the ayatollah Khatami, as it came immediately after the Judiciary sentenced Thursday Mr Qolamhosein Karbaschi, the Mayor of Tehran to 5 years of firm imprisonment and 20 years of suspension from all public functions in the one hand and closed down the "Jame'eh"", the country's most influential and popular newspaper, on the other.
Both the 45 years-old Mayor and the liberal newspaper are staunch supporters of the reforms promised by Mr Khatami, including the introduction of a civil society, basic political freedoms and the rule of law and order.
Mr Jannatti expressed satisfaction at the condemnation of Mr Karbaschi and apprehending a possible demonstration against the leader, he warned the population, mostly the youngsters, from staging manifestations in support of the Mayor, as they did last April when Mr Karbaschi was arrested and jailed.
Though it was generally expected that Mr Karbaschi would be condemned to prison and suspension from administrative activities in one way of another, the harshness of the sentence surprised more than one and angered the population.
"The conservatives have won a battle, but at the end, they will surely loose the war, as the population realises that they are openly after the skin of a president who was elected by a great majority of them, represents their wishes for more freedom and above all, is hugely popular", commented one Tehran observer.
As for the closure of "Jame'eh", its Editor said he was surprised at the confirmation of the decision by a superior instance since he has been almost assured "through some negotiations" that the paper could continue to appear.
"Now it is clear to everyone that a certain will related to power is behind the decision to remove our licence. One need time for the truth to come to the open, but the coincidence of this decision with the harsh sentence imposed on Mr Karbaschi is disturbing the public opinion and opens the way for interrogation " Mr Masha'allah Shamsolva'ezin told the Persian Language service of the BBC, a clear reference to the Judiciary which is controlled directly by Mr Khameneh'i.
In another development, it was announced Friday that a Baha'i had been hanged in the North Eastern city of Mash-had charged with converting a Muslim woman to this religion.
This is the first time in the past six years and the first time since Mr Khatami has taken office that the hanging of a Baha'i is reported.
Contrary to Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians, not only Baha'is are not recognised by the Islam-based Constitution of the Islamic Republic but as apostates, they are harshly treated and suppressed. The number of the Baha'is was estimated at between 250.000 to 300.000 souls before the Islamic revolution and it is generally believed that half of them have since left Iran.
Baha'i sources in Europe said Mr Ruhollah Rohani was hanged three days ago after nine months of solitary jail during which time he had no access to any lawyer. They said three other Baha'i have also been condemned to death for illegal conversion of Muslims into Baha'ism and may be hanged at any time.