Salman Rushdie faces renewed death threat Thursday, 20 January , 2005, 20:27 London: Author Salman Rushdie faces a renewed death threat from Islamic fundamentalists as Iran's supreme leader Ayotollah Ali Khamenie affirmed a 'fatwa' against him in a message to Muslims on their annual pilgrimage to Mecca. The Ayatollah said Rushdie was an apostate whose killing would be authorised by Islam, Iranian media reported. He spoke about Rushdie during a fiery tirade against 'western and Zionist capitalists'. The British Foreign Office is tight-lipped about the renewed reference to Rushdie. Officials said the Iranian Government, which had disassociated itself from the fatwa in 1998 after the publication of the 'Satanic Verses', had not changed its position. They clarified that the fatwa, originally issued by the late Ayatollah Khomeini, would always remain valid as it could only be rescinded by the person who issued it or by someone wielding greater authority. Otherwise, it will in practice always remain valid, the said. "The key thing from our point of view is that the Iranian Government formally withdrew their support for the fatwa in 1998 which is when Britain and Iran upgraded their relationship to the level of ambassador," the Times quoted the Foreign Office. The officials also believe that it was just the standard rhetoric which is issued from time to time. Rushdie's name is always mentioned whenever Ayotollah Khamenie gives a sermon. Analysts in Iran too played down the fear of a renewed threat to Rushdie's life. They said the reference to the fatwa by the Ayatollah was in 'historical context'. But the Scotland Yard, sources said, was carefully studying the text of the message and would consult the Foreign office before deciding the level of the renewed threat, if any.