Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is gravely ill after undergoing surgery last week for a bowel obstruction and has canceled all public meetings, being too weak to even sit up, The New York Times reported on Friday.
Khamenei’s health deteriorated early last week when he began experiencing severe stomach pains, the report said, citing four people familiar with the matter. The supreme leader had surgery at a makeshift clinic set up in his home, and his office canceled all public appearances for the rest of the week.
The 83-year-old’s condition was considered critical but has since seen an improvement. However, he is still being monitored closely by doctors, according to the paper.
The Iranian government rarely comments on the health of its supreme leader and has not done so in this case either.
Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency said on Friday that Khamenei would attend a religious ceremony with university students the following day but the NYT speculated that he might not be able to attend given his condition.
It said Khamenei recently traveled to Mashhad to perform a religious ritual at one of the holy Iranian city’s shrines, during which he told confidants that it might be his last such trip, given his age.
But in a possible indication that Khamenei’s condition was improving, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi traveled to Uzbekistan on Friday — a trip analysts told the New York Times he would not have taken if he thought Khamenei’s death was imminent.
Raisi is also scheduled to travel to New York next week, where he will address the UN General Assembly on Wednesday.
Questions regarding Khamenei’s health have made headlines several times in recent years and there have even been false claims about the death of the supreme leader, who has ruled Iran since 1989.
Khamenei underwent a successful prostate cancer operation in 2014.
The report comes with Iran looking increasingly unlikely to reach an agreement with Western powers on reentry to the nuclear deal that would limit its atomic ambitions.