Iran is vigorously denying rumors that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei fell into a coma and died this week, an Armenian news site reported.
Iran's embassy was said to have blasted back at reports of Khamenei's illness or death as a "slander" -- possibly the first official response to rumors that have been swirling around the Internet and appear to be fraying nerves in Tehran.
Iran watcher Michael Ledeen reported on his blog Tuesday that an "excellent source" assured him that the 70-year-old Khamenei "collapsed and was taken to a special clinic" Monday afternoon. The Supreme Leader's health was said to have declined due to the strains of the popular resistance to Iran's contested national elections.
Ledeen, a scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said a bulletin from the reformist opposition to Khamenei's regime reported "widespread rumors in the Tehran Bazaar that Khamenei has died," and described an "abnormal atmosphere" in the streets of Iran's capital, possibly implying an increased security presence.
Khamenei has had health problems in the past, and was erroneously reported by Ledeen to have died in January 2007. Ledeen wrote this week that his current source "is in a position to know" about Khamenei's health.