Moslem fundamentalist leaders in Iran said Thursday that suicide squads were preparing to carry out the "death sentence" imposed on novelist Salman Rushdie and his publishers by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

The declaration on Tehran Radio followed other reports that death squads from Islamic countries were en route to Britain in search of the writer, whose novel "The Satanic Verses" has outraged many Moslem fundamentalists.Britain, which reopened its embassy in Tehran in December for the first time in eight years, condemned the threats and announced it had frozen plans to "build up further our embassy."

United News of India and the British Broadcasting Corp. said telephone callers threatened to bomb British planes to India unless Rushdie appeared in public. Two airlines, British Airways and Air Europe, said they were taking the threat seriously.

Pakistan's government demanded the United States and Britain ban the book and that all copies of it be destroyed. Six people died in Pakistan during a weekend riot over the book.

An Iranian cleric on Wednesday offered up to $2.6 million for Rushdie's death, and the author canceled a U.S. promotional tour that was scheduled to begin Friday.

A leading Islamic theologian in Egypt said Thursday that Khomeini erred in sending death squads after Rushdie without first giving him a chance to repent. Sheik Mohammed Hossam-el-Din said the book should be banned and burned but executing its author would be "virtually impossible" under the tenets of Islam.

British news media said the Indian-born Rushdie was hiding with his wife, American novelist Marianne Wiggins, under police guard. Press Association, the domestic British news agency, said Rushdie's first wife, Clarissa Luard, also had been given police protection.

Iran's lone diplomat in Britain, Mohammed Basti, was summoned to the Foreign Office in London to discuss the situation and emerged defiant, telling reporters Khomeini's "decree or verdict" had been delivered after careful consideration. "It has nothing to do particularly with your country," Basti said.

The Foreign Office called Khomeini's statement totally unacceptable. "We recog-nize that Moslems and others may have strong views about the contents of Mr.

Moslem fundamentalist leaders in Iran said Thursday that suicide squads were preparing to carry out the "death sentence" imposed on novelist Salman Rushdie and his publishers by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

The declaration on Tehran Radio followed other reports that death squads from Islamic countries were en route to Britain in search of the writer, whose novel "The Satanic Verses" has outraged many Moslem fundamentalists.

Britain, which reopened its embassy in Tehran in December for the first time in eight years, condemned the threats and announced it had frozen plans to "build up further our embassy."

United News of India and the British Broadcasting Corp. said telephone callers threatened to bomb British planes to India unless Rushdie appeared in public. Two airlines, British Airways and Air Europe, said they were taking the threat seriously.

Pakistan's government demanded the United States and Britain ban the book and that all copies of it be destroyed. Six people died in Pakistan during a weekend riot over the book.

An Iranian cleric on Wednesday offered up to $2.6 million for Rushdie's death, and the author canceled a U.S. promotional tour that was scheduled to begin Friday.

A leading Islamic theologian in Egypt said Thursday that Khomeini erred in sending death squads after Rushdie without first giving him a chance to repent. Sheik Mohammed Hossam-el-Din said the book should be banned and burned but executing its author would be "virtually impossible" under the tenets of Islam.

British news media said the Indian-born Rushdie was hiding with his wife, American novelist Marianne Wiggins, under police guard. Press Association, the domestic British news agency, said Rushdie's first wife, Clarissa Luard, also had been given police protection.

Iran's lone diplomat in Britain, Mohammed Basti, was summoned to the Foreign Office in London to discuss the situation and emerged defiant, telling reporters Khomeini's "decree or verdict" had been delivered after careful consideration. "It has nothing to do particularly with your country," Basti said.

The Foreign Office called Khomeini's statement totally unacceptable. "We recog-nize that Moslems and others may have strong views about the contents of Mr. Rushdie's book," it said. "However, no one has the right to incite people to violence on British soil or against British citizens."

Rushdie, 41, was born into a Moslem family in India but is a British subject. Since "The Satanic Verses" was published in Britain in September, it has sold more than 100,000 copies here and received critical acclaim.

Pakistani fundamentalist leaders called for nationwide protests Friday to condemn the book and denounce the deaths and injuries in Sunday's protests.

The book has been banned in countries with large Moslem populations, including India and South Africa, as well as most Islamic nations, including Pakistan, Bangladesh and Egypt.

No official ban has been announced in Iran, where the population is overwhelmingly Shiite Moslem, but most foreign publications have been banned in that country for years.

In New York, a statement issued on behalf of author and publisher said, "The current climate is not appropriate for a promotional tour in the United States. . . . We reiterate that no offense was intended in the creation or publication of this work."

The French publishing house Christian Bourgois said it was delaying publication of the novel to avoid risk to the company, its clients and readers.

A major character in the novel is named Mahound, a medieval corruption of the name of the prophet Mohammed. Moslems have complained the book represents the prophet's wives as prostitutes and suggests that he wrote the Koran, rather than receiving it from God.

One of Italy's leading publishing companies, Arnoldo Mondadori Editore SpA, announced Thursday it will go ahead with next week's planned release of "The Satanic Verses."

The Iranian bounty prompted the indignation of European Parliament deputies meeting Thursday in Strasbourg, France. Italy's Marco Pannella said, "Europeans should respond with a fitting show of disgust" for Khomeini's "base" action.