Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has been out of public sight for three weeks amid speculations of his declining health leaving the country worried about a power vacuum.
Quoting Iranian sources, UK newspaper The Times reported on Thursday that “Ayatollah Khamenei collapsed recently during a private meeting and since then has been convalescing or receiving treatment.”
He last appeared to the public in Tehran on Oct. 5, The Times reported.
Khamenei came to power in 1989 following the death of Ayatollah Khomeini, who assumed power in the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
Concerns about Khamenei’s health grew when he failed to send customary farewells to Iranian pilgrims traveling for hajj two weeks ago, according to reports.
He also did not deliver an address during Eid al-Ghadeer, a festive day observed by Shia Muslims.
“It seems the illness is worse than we thought. People are scared that this could be the end,” one supporter told The Times.
But an Israeli military intelligence website ruled out health issues are behind Khamenei’s absence. DEBKAfile reported that the supreme leader has likely disappeared to focus on drafting a “trilateral” U.S.-Russian-Iranian accord for resolving the issues of Iran’s nuclear program.
The website quoted sources saying that the accord is already finalized and the leaders of the three countries have not made it public in order not cause regional “shock.”
Khamenei, who has the final word in all state affairs, has no appointed heir. Conservatives fear his death could bring a reformist to Islamic Republic’s supreme leadership. Former president and powerful figure Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is especially feared by conservative due to his reformist positions.
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