Iran’s late religious leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa, or religious decree, in 1989 calling for the death of British writer Salman Rushdie.
On Monday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declined to confirm whether the fatwa remained in place.
“Where is he now?” Mr. Ahmadinejad asked of Mr. Rushdie at a breakfast with Western journalists in New York City, where he was asked about the status of the fatwa. “Is he in the U.S.?…You shouldn’t broadcast this for his own safety.”
Free speech and religious tolerance are hot-button issues at this year’s United Nations General Assembly due to the widespread rioting in the Islamic world following the posting this month of a video that world leaders have said insults the Muslim religion’s prophet, Mohammed. Mr. Ahmadinejad is speaking at the U.N. on Wednesday.