WASHINGTON — 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 today.
"He's going to die soon," the official told United Press International.
The official said Khomeini could die in as few 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 that Khomeini is suffering from several kinds of cancer, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Ailing 'for Some Time'
The official said a CBS television report quoting U.S. intelligence sources estimating that the ayatollah could die within three months is "accurate enough to prompt an investigation" on how the information was leaked. But he said it is too difficult to say when Khomeini will 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 that if surgeons removed the prostate before the cancer spread, then "Khomeini may have been cured and could live for 10 years or even longer."
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.
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.
Top Leaders Conferring
The official Iranian news agency said today that two of Iran's top leaders conferred with the designated successor to Khomeini. Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency, monitored in Nicosia, Cyprus, said Parliament Speaker Hashemi Rafsanjani conferred Wednesday with the Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri in the holy city of Qom, 100 miles south of Tehran. The agency said that President Ali Khamenei also saw Montazeri in Qom on Thursday.
Rafsanjani and Khamenei are political rivals in the power struggle that has been taking place in the Tehran hierarchy over who will run the country when Khomeini dies.