Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei received a group of visitors during a religious ceremony on Saturday, his first public appearance for more than two weeks following reports that he was seriously ill.
State television showed Mr Khamenei, 83, standing as he spoke in a steady voice to his audience about the importance of Arbaeen, the ceremony that marks the end of a 40-day mourning period for the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, Imam Hussein.
Mr Khamenei had not appeared in public since he met followers in Tehran on September 3, sparking rumours on social media that he was ill.
The New York Times reported on Friday that Mr Khamenei had cancelled all meetings and public appearances last week after falling gravely ill. It said he was on bed rest and under observation by doctors, quoting four sources familiar with his health.
One of the sources said Mr Khamenei had surgery last week for a bowel obstruction after suffering stomach pains and high fever, the report said.
Two of the sources were based in Iran, including one with ties to the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp, it said.
However, two sources close to the supreme leader denied to Reuters on Friday that his health had deteriorated.
As supreme leader, a role he assumed in 1989 after the death Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Mr Khamenei holds final say on affairs of state, including a revised nuclear deal that Iran is negotiating with world powers.
The deal would grant Iran relief from US sanctions in exchange for limits on its nuclear programme.
Mr Khamenei told the gathering on Saturday that believers should rely on the Quran, which calls for patience when facing hard times — an apparent reference to Iran's struggle under US economic sanctions.
“Patience means perseverance, it means resisting, not getting tired, not feeling yourself at a dead end,” Mr Khamenei said.
“Take the right way and take others along to the right path.”
— With reporting from Reuters.