U.S. intelligence reports say Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini is riddled with cancer and could die within days or months, an administration official said Friday.
"He's going to die soon," the official said.The official said Khomeini could die as soon as five days, but added, "I don't think anybody really knows exactly," especially since the ayatollah's family has a history of longevity.
U.S. intelligence reports show Khomeini is suffering from several kinds of cancer, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The official said a CBS television report quoting U.S. intelligence sources estimating the ayatollah could die within three months was "accurate enough to prompt an investigation" on how the information was leaked. But he said it was too difficult to say when Khomeini would die.
In Manama, Bahrain, a West European diplomat recently in Tehran told United Press International today that Khomeini has suffered from cancer of the prostate "for some time." But he said if surgeons had removed the prostate before the cancer spread, then "Khomeini may have been cured and could live for 10 years or even longer."
The diplomat said, however, if the cancer in the prostate gland has spread, the 88-year-old Khomeini could die within months.
CBS Television quoted intelligence sources in Washington as saying Khomeini's cancer spread from the prostate to the liver - giving the Iranian patriarch only two to three months to live.
Diplomats based in the Persian Gulf said past rumors about Khomeini's imminent death have come from Iranian exiles who may have been indulging in "wishful thinking."
There has been no reaction from Tehran on the latest reports on the health of Khomeini, who in his last public appearance on May 17 gave a 20-minute speech on Tehran radio in a strong clear voice to commemorate the Islamic festival of Eid al Fitr.
In January 1980, Khomeini underwent heart surgery in Tehran and reports circulating in Iranian capital then were that he was fitted with a pacemaker.
At that time, sources in Tehran said Khomeini suffered from "dormant" prostate cancer described as no threat to his life.
On Nov. 9, 1986, Khomeini, apparently reacting to reports he had suffered a heart attack and might be dying, said "everyone faces death" and vowed his Islamic fundamentalist regime would survive without him.
Khomeini said at the time if he should die, "so be it," adding the republic "does not depend on a single personality" for its survival.
Last Dec. 10, Khomeini handed an updated version of his "last will" to high-ranking clerics in Tehran, touching off rumors he was seriously ill and in a coma, and that a team of doctors had flown to Tehran to treat him.
But Dec. 13, a spokesman for the ayatollah told UPI the rumors were "utter lies," and two days later, Khomeini appeared on television but made no speech. In the next few weeks, Khomeini issued decrees giving new powers to the government.