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Friday, April 4, 2014

Obama and Kerry Say Iran Issued Fatwa Against Nukes, But It’s Not Listed With the Others -- By Patrick Goodenough, CNS News

Mideast IranA State Department spokeswoman expressed surprise Thursday to hear that a purported “fatwa” by Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei prohibiting nuclear weapons, which President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry periodically cite, does not appear on a list of fatwas on Khamenei’s official website.

“Oh, really?” Marie Harf said during a press briefing after a reporter brought this to her attention.

“I will say, just in general, I’m not an expert on the fatwa process certainly, or on the supreme leader’s website,” she said. “But what I will say, and I think what people have said, is we have referenced the fatwa. We’ve said it’s clearly significant, both to the supreme leader and to the people of Iran. And that’s important.”

 Harf said she would raise questions on the issue with “our fatwa expert here.”

Some skeptics have questioned whether the fatwa, or religious ruling, actually exists – or if it does, whether it holds any weight.

In his address at the U.N. General Assembly last September, Obama said “the supreme leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons,” and in his annual message marking Nowruz, the Persian new year, last month, the president said, “Iran’s highest officials, including Supreme Leader Khamenei, have said that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons.”

Kerry, in a Nowruz interview with the Voice of America’s Persian service, was asked what importance he attributed to the fatwa.

“Well, I have great respect for a fatwa,” he replied. “A fatwa is a very highly regarded message of religious importance. And when any fatwa is issued, I think people take it seriously, and so do we, even though it’s not our practice. But we have great respect for what it means.”

Kerry described the ruling as “a good starting place.”

“President Obama and I both are extremely welcoming and grateful for the fact that the supreme leader has issued a fatwa declaring that,” he said. “That’s an important statement. But now we need to take that and put it into a sort of understandable legal structure, if you will, that goes beyond an article of faith within a religious belief, or process, into a more secular process that everybody can attach a meaning to.”

Does it exist? What’s it worth? 

Fatwas listed on Khamenei’s website cover a wide range of topics, covering everything from artificial insemination to the fact that wearing a gold ring while praying invalidates the prayer. CNSNews.com reported two years ago that the purported prohibition of nuclear weapons does not appear, and a search Thursday confirmed that remains the case.

Its absence from the site is one reason for the skepticism voiced about the fatwa. Another is the fact that there does not appear to be a single, definitive copy of it, and when Iranian officials have referred to it, they give different dates for its promulgation.

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