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Iran prosecutor says Rushdie must die, as decreed in '89

Iran's chief prosecutor insisted Friday that author Salman Rushdie still must die for allegedly blaspheming Islam, reinforcing the death edict nine years after it was issued.

"The shedding of this man's blood is obligatory," prosecutor Morteza Moqtadaie declared.In a fatwa, or Islamic decree, on Feb. 14, 1989, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini said that Rushdie should be killed for allegedly insulting the Prophet Mohammed in his book, "The Satanic Verses."

Since then, Rushdie has lived largely in hiding and under the protection of the British government.

"Any Muslim who hears an insult to the prophet must kill the person who commits the insult. It is better that those closest to that person try to kill him first," Moqtadaie said in a sermon at Tehran University.

Worshippers shouted "Allahu Akbar," or "God is great," when he said "Rushdie must die."

Moqtadaie, a senior cleric, said that during his lifetime Mohammed had sent two people to cut the throat of a man who had insulted him. "What Imam Khomeini did is exactly what the prophet did, and this (death sentence) must be preserved," he said.

Khomeini, Iran's revolutionary leader, died of cancer four months after issuing his decree. Iranian leaders insist the fatwa cannot be revoked. The issue has long strained relations with Britain and other Western countries.