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Iranian publishers defy Frankfurt Book Fair boycott

Around 10 Iranian publishers will be participating in the world's largest book fair despite Iran's boycott. The book fair director said "freedom of the word is not negotiable" as Rushdie's book spurs new controversy.

A spokesperson for the book fair said on Monday that around 10 Iranian publishers would be participating, despite an official boycott by the Iranian government.

"We feel a strong politicization this year and freedom of expression will be a key theme," said Juergen Boos, director of the Frankfurt Book Fair, in a statement.

Boos' statement follows Iran's withdrawal from the

world largest book fair

- set to open Wednesday - after the Islamic republic's culture ministry denounced the presence of British-Indian author Salman Rushdie.

Iran's culture ministry said in a statement that it was boycotting the event

because the book fair had "under the pretext of freedom of expression, invited a person who is hated in the Islamic world and created the opportunity for Salman Rushdie…to make a speech."

The Iranian government also called on Muslim countries not to participate in the event.

'Place of dialogue'

"We regret the cancellation of the Iranian culture ministry," Boos noted in Monday's statement. "The Frankfurt Book Fair is a place of dialogue. At the same time, we hope that Iran's cancellation this year will only be a short interruption of the ongoing talks and that we will be able to expand and extend relations."

In 1989, Iran's Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a religious edict calling for the murder of Rushdie following the publication of his novel "The Satanic Verses," prompting British authorities to appoint the author a permanent security detail.

The book continues to stir controversy, with Saudi Arabia last week summoning the Czech ambassador over a translation of "The Satanic Verses."

The Saudi Press Agency cited an official as saying the kingdom expressed its "condemnation and disapproval of translating the book," while urging Prague to intervene and stop publication of Rushdie's work.

Rushdie is expected to speak at a news conference on Tuesday, one day ahead of the book fair's opening.

The event will take place from October 14 to 18.

ls/bk (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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