ANKARA (Reuters) - Iran’s top authority Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has successfully undergone prostate surgery, Iranian state media and his website said on Monday, in a rare public report on the state of his health.
Khamenei, 75, told state television ahead of the surgery that “there is no reason to worry. Of course this does not mean that I don’t need people’s prayers.”
State television said later the operation was successful.
“The operation took place without anaesthetic at a state hospital. The leader will stay at the hospital for a few days to recover like all other identical cases,” said the head of Khamenei’s medical team Alireza Marandi.
State media published pictures of President Hassan Rouhani visiting Khamenei in the hospital after the operation.
“He is in a very good health ... our nation should not be worried,” Iran’s official IRNA news agency quoted Rouhani as saying after the visit.
Head of Khamenei’s office Mohammad Mohammadi-Golpayegani told IRNA that “the supreme leader will leave hospital for home after five or six days”.
Numerous rumours that Khamenei had prostate cancer have circulated in past years.
“The Supreme Leader had this prostate issue for some time and the specialists believed that it was a suitable time for surgery,” Marandi was quoted as saying on the Khamenei.ir website.
“This is a common illness in men at this age.”
FORCE BEHIND ESTABLISHMENT
Khamenei succeeded the original Supreme Leader and founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in 1989. He was Iran’s president for two successive terms from 1981-1989, and survived an assassination attempt that paralysed his right arm in 1981.
Khamenei has substantial influence, or constitutional authority, over the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government as well as the military and media. Some feel his departure would expose rivalries in the Islamic Republic.
“It would deepen the ongoing political infighting between various political camps in Iran. And obviously there is the danger of the Revolutionary Guards, which will want to cement their power by supporting a more radical candidate, succeeding Khamenei,” said a Tehran-based analyst who asked not to be named due to sensitivity of the issue.
“Khamenei is the force behind the establishment. Without him, the system will collapse.”
Khamenei has repeatedly denounced the West, particularly the United States, over its actions against Iran’s disputed nuclear programme and its broader Middle Eastern policy.
But he has so far supported the talks between Iran and the six world powers on the programme, which Western countries suspect is aimed at seeking the capability to build a nuclear bomb but which Iran says is for peaceful purposes.
Western states have imposed economic sanctions on the major oil-producer to make it scale back its atomic activities.
Khamenei has expressed doubts the talks will resolve the decade-long dispute.
Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall