Iranian opposition leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini will meet with Iranian Prime Minister Shahpour Bakhtiar when Bakhtiar comes to Paris sometime in the next two days, the chief adviser to the ayatollah said today.
"Bakhtiar has said he wants to hear the ayatollah's opinion, and if this is so, the ayatollah is willing to let him hear it," Ibrahim Yazdi, the aide, said.
Observers here noted that it is unlikely that Bakhtiar would make the trip to Paris unless Khomeini had softened his previous demands that the premier step down and permit the formation of the Islamic republic sought by Khomeini.
One Khomeini aide said, "If Bakhtiar is coming to tell the ayatollah he cannot go back to Iran, of course he would not see him. But I personally do not believe that this is the case, and that he will see him."
Yazdi declared himself "happy" with Bakhtiar's announcement, and said the prime minister might be "changing his policy." He said that Khomeini had known in advance of Bakhtiar's plan.
Bakhtiar's announcement and Yazdi's seemingly conciliatory remarks represented a dramatic reversal of the stalemate in delicate negotiations that have been under way in preparation of Khomeini's planned triumphal return to Tehran after 14 years in Exile.
Just several hours before the announcement in Iran, Knomeini said in a French radio interview to be broadcase Sunday that "the Bakhtiar government is illegal and therefore any negotiation with that government makes no sense."
When asked why a referendum could not be negotiated in order for the people to decide between a constitutional monarchy led by Bakhtiar and an Islamic republic, Khomeini replied, "The position of Mr. Bakhtiar is illegal. One cannot therefore envisage such a mission by them and it is not possible to have an agreement with him."
Earlier today Khomeini postponed for a second time his planned departure for Iran when he was unable to obtain assurances that Tehran's airport would be open.
The French government continued to warn Air France, with whom the exiled Moslem leader's supporters are negotiating to charter an airliner, that it must abide by international civil aviation regulations and obtain landing permission before leaving here.
However, Sadegh Ghotbzadeh, one of Khomeini's senior advisers, told reporters that the opposition leader still hoped to leave here Sunday night for a Monday morning arrival in Tehran.
Iranian authorities appeared to be bidding for time by postponing landing permission on a day-to-day basis, however, and French authorities appear to be shifting their sympathies away from Khomeini and toward the prime minister, who took office earlier this month as the shah prepared to leave the country under pressure from a wide range of opposition forces.
When asked what would happen if the Iranian airports remained closed indefinitely, Ghotbzadeh replied, "I don't think it will come to that. Things are very fluid. Wait until tomorrow."
Approximately 200 reporters are expected to accompany the ayatollah if and when he returns to Tehran.
Earlier, Air France and other carriers operating from Europe to Iran announced the cancellation of their regular Saturday night flights to Tehran. Several of the major airlines have stopped taking reservations, saying they will schedule flights when Tehran airport is again officially open.
The French government's insistence that Air France file a flight plan showing landing permission from Iranian authorities underscored France's growing disenchantment with its role as a reluctant host to Khomeini and his entourage of religious opposition figures. It also indicated a warming up to the Bakhtiar government, which had asked the ayatollah to delay his return three weeks in order to give the government time to "organize security."