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Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said today a death order against British author Salman Rushdie was still in force despite his repentance.

"As the Imam (the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini) said, the Islamic decree about the author of 'The Satanic Verses' remains unchanged even if he repents and becomes the most pious man of his time," Tehran radio quoted Ayatollah Khamenei as saying.

The Indian-born novelist, in hiding since Ayatollah Khomeini ordered his death for blasphemy 22 months ago, renewed his faith in Islam Monday and disavowed anti-Muslim sentiments expressed by characters in his book.

"The Imam's edict . . . and the Muslims' commitment to implement it are bearing their first fruits on the scene of confrontation between Islam and world infidelity," Ayatollah Khamenei said.

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