Under the Iranian regime of Ayatollah Khomeini, a death sentence was passed on Salman Rushdie. But under a more moderate regime, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharraz announced in New York on Thursday that his government has no intention in threatening the life of the author of the Satanic Verses, reports CBS News Correspondent Mark Phillips.
Kharrazi's comments stopped short of lifting the death sentence on Rushdie. However, in recent years, Iran has even given assurances that it will not actively seek Rushdie's death.
Kharrazi and his British counterpart, Robin Cook, sought to portray the move as a significant way to improve ties that have remained strained over the issue.
Rushdie said he would not apologize for writing the book. "I've had 10 years of my life deformed by this. I've had friends of mine threatened. I've had my family frightened, messed around with. I've had people that I care about shot and killed. I could ask for apologies. I'm not doing so."
The British writer also said he had no regrets about writing it.
"The Satanic Verses is as important in my body of work as any of my other books," he said.
But Rushdie said he had been particularly hurt when India, his native country, had banned the book and turned against him.
"I have not been permitted at any time to be in the country of my birth, the country that has been the inspiration of my works," he said.
Rushdie confessed that he had lied in 1990 when, in an effort to have the Iranian fatwa rescinded, he publicly declared that he had "embraced Islam."
Asked if he is a Muslim now, Rushdie replied: "I am happy to say that I am not."
There is still division in Iran, Phillips reports. Some hard-line groups still may see Rushdie as a target. But without government support and encouragement, Salman Rushdie is a safer man now than he has been for a decade.