Iranian opposition leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ended more than 14 years of exile, returning to Tehran today to a triumphant welcome from millions of supporters of his drive to replace Iran's monarchy with an Islamic republic.
His arrival at Tehran's airport, where massive security arrangements protected his return, came just 16 days after Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi fled the country in the face of a year-long drive for his ouster led by Khomeini.
Khomeini stepped off a chartered Air France jetliner at 9:30 a.m. Tehran time after a 5 1/2 hour flight from Paris and was greeted by the cheers of his elated supporters.
Throughout the capital, millions of jubilant Iranians shouted their welcome and created a cacophony of horn-blowing as the 78-year-old religious leader prepared to begin a triumphal parade from Mehrabad International Airport.
In a brief statement at the airport, Khomeini called for the ouster of all foreigners and said there was "no chance" that the shah could return, but he did not talk about his plans for installing an Islamic republic.
In line with his frequent criticism from exile of foreign -- particularly Western -- influence in Iran, Khomeini said "final victory" will come when "all the foreigners will be out of the country and uprooted."
Accusing foreign advisers of trying to engineer the shah's return to install "a government that will obey the imperialists," Khomeini said: "I beg to God to cut off the hand of all evil foreigners and all their helpers in Iran."
He added that the Iranian people's struggle should continue but did not define what the next step should be.
Khomeini was whisked into a waiting limousine as heavily armed Iranian Air Force guards ran alongside with submachineguns as the motorcade left the tarmac.
Millions of Iranians watched the arrival on a national television broadcast, but immediately after Khomeini drove from the parked jetliner, the broadcast was abruptly ended without explanation.
A portrait of the departed shah was displayed on television, accompanied by the Iranian national anthem -- a harbinger of the strife that is bound to escalate between Khomeini's supporters and those of the shah, now that the religious leader has returned from the exile into which the monarch forced him in 1964.
As Khomeini arrived, a shoving match erupted between scores of reporters, volunteer marshals and guards inside the terminal as supporters of the ayatollah, or religious leader, pressed closer to the tarmac for a glimpse of their leader.
Inexplicably, just as Khomeini's plane touched down, Iranian communications workers began a 30-minute strike, severing all incoming international communications and creating chaos for correspondents attempting to file dispatches of the arrival. Adding to the confusing scene, Iranian government censors reportedly were positioned at several broadcast trailers, apparently accounting for the abrupt termination of the television broadcast and the loss of sound throughout the televising of the arrival ceremony.
The airport was bedecked with huge banners congratulating the Iranian people for ridding the country of foreigners and welcoming the ayatollah home. Moslem volunteer marshals wearing bright green Islamic arm bands maintained tight control of the tarmac during the arrival.
After a motorcade through the center of Tehran, protected by 50,000 volunteer marshals, and a brief stop at Tehran University, Khomeini was to visit Behesht Zahra cemetery south of Tehran to make a major address to his followers. From there, he is scheduled to be flown by helicopter to a former girls' school near the Iranian parliament where he will establish his revolutionary headquarters.
Cars and trucks clogged roads for 25 miles from the airport to Gardaneh Hassanabad, well beyond the cemetery.
The cemetery began to fill with supporters as early as 3 a.m. with many people arriving on foot. Approximately 100,000 persons listened to speeches by religious leaders early this morning. There were contingents of Khomeini supporters from Tabriz and Mashad and other provincial towns.
As Khomeini's chartered airliner flew over on its landing pattern, shouts of "honor to Khomeini" resounded throughout the cemetery.
Khomeini is scheduled to speak at the cemetery's lot 17, selected because the number is the same as the date of the Jaleh Square massacre on Sept. 17, in which hundreds of protesters were shot by Iranian Army troops. Many of the more than 1,500 persons who died in the year-long anti-shah violence are buried at the cemetery.
There was no sign of any representatives of the government of Prime Minister Shahpour Bakhtiar at the airport.
Yesterday, the Iranian Army staged a massive show of strength in downtown Tehran as millions awaited the return of the 78-year-old head of the Moslem opposition to Bakhtiar's beleaguered government.
Tanks and thousands of troops moved through the streets of the tense, riot-torn capital as if to demonstrate that the government would not capitulate at the ayatollah's beckoning.
Minutes before Khomeini arrived, National Front leader Karim Sanjabi said, "Until now, it's a victory and we hope the victory will continue."
Of Bakhtiar, Sanjabi said, "He's bound to fall. He cannot resist."
Bakhtiar, in a seemingly desperate speech last night, pledged that "I will not allow the country to be governed by any force other than the central government."
Bakhtiar, in a statement broadcast by Iranian radio, extended greetings to Khomeini as a religious leader but warned, "We will not allow the life and property of the people to be trampled." He said that responsibility for any bloodshed resulting from Khomeini's return would rest with Moslem leaders.
While Iranians on both sides of the year-long struggle centering on the rule of the shah prepared for Khomeini's return, Tehran's airport was jammed with foreigners and Iranian Jews attempting to leave the country before what they feared might be a new wave of violence.
Despite the military show of force, however, there was still no clear indication how the country's armed forces will react if the Shiite Moslem leader goes ahead with plans to establish an Islamic republic to replace the monarchy. The army's officers remain largely loyal to the shah.
Nor was there anything to dispel the political and economic uncertainty that shrouds Iran's future.
It appeared that the government of Prime Minister Bakhtiar may be faced with a "parallel government" under the ayatollah's tutelage. In fact, this shadow government already appears to be taking shape.
A "Khomeini welcome committee" set up by the ayatollah's followers issued "official" passes to correspondents to cover the return, functioning almost like a rival information ministry.
The army seemed to be attempting to show in its mass parade that it is not intimidated by Khomeini's popular support.
At least seven columns of battle tanks and troop-laden trucks rolled out of Lavizan, the headquarters of the army ground forces and the Imperial Guard, and moved into the southern part of the city.
One of the columns, led by five tanks of the Imperial Guard, was two miles long.
The armored columns criss-crossed the city, pushing aside barricades erected by antigovernment demonstrators. Near Tehran University, the scene of numerous bloody confrontations over the past year, demonstrators reportedly blocked one column until an army general ordered the crowd to disperse.
Rifle fire could be heard along parts of the route, and there were some casualties, with one to four protesters reported killed and up to a dozen wounded.
Near Tehran's international airport, an army column led by 10 light tanks, with 20 truckloads of troops armed with machineguns and rifles, presented a show of force as Iranians, queued in long lines waiting to buy gasoline, watched.
Although the independent Iranian newspaper, Kayhan, speculated that "a coup is in the offing," it is expected that the army will maintain a low profile during Khomeini's parade through Tehran, as it has done during several massive but peaceful demonstrations in the past six weeks.
A military spokesman quoted on Tehran radio said the troop movement represented "a normal relocation of units" from one barracks to another.
There were several verbal confrontations between demonstrators and soldiers, with civilians stopping the columns and shouting abuse and army troopers shouting back, "Long live the shah."
In prosperous northern Tehran, some 500 pro-shah demonstrators gathered and shouted slogans such as "Long live the Pahlavi dynasty."
But for many Khomeini supporters much of the day was dominated by sprucing up riot-weary Tehran for the ayatollah's homecoming, more than 14 years after the shah sent him into exile in Iraq for his continuous efforts to overthrow the Pahlavi dynasty.
All along the broad Eisenhower Boulevard, people were sweeping the street with brooms and volunteers were hanging huge portraits of the bearded ayatollah, who has directed the revolution from a modest summer cottage in the Paris suburb of Pont-chartrain.
Cranes were used to hoist huge banners over downtown streets, presenting a display of adulation that the ayatollah has said he does not care for and that is more reminiscent of the shah's rule.
The base of a toppled statute of the shah's father, Reza Shah, is now draped in Islamic green and decorated by Khomeini posters.
Khomeini's motorcade, which is expected to paralyze the capital with traffic and severely test the crowd-control abilities of some 50,000 volunteer marshals, will go from the airport to the towering Shayad monument, a futuristic concrete arch built by the shah to memorialize the Pahlavi dynasty. Renamed Khomeini Square by the insurrectionists, the monument is now covered with anti-shah graffiti.
The procession is scheduled then to move along Eisenhower and Shah Reza boulevards to Tehran University for a brief stop commemorating protesters who died there at the hands of the army, and then will move to the cemetery.
It was not known whether Khomeini would give in to the government's urging that he make the cemetery visit a symbolic one, or whether he would use the occasion to make a major political speech that could touch off renewed rioting against the government and prepare for a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution and prepare for national elections.
In rejecting numerous compromise offers by Bakhtiar, Khomeini has demanded the premier's resignation and the dismantling of the regency council appointed by the shah Jan. 16 when he left the country on an open-ended "vacation."
Tehran's airport was packed this morning with arriving and departing passengers as commercial aviation resumed operations for the first time since Jan. 25, when the government closed the airport.
Several commercial flights landed, including El Al, the Israeli national airline, which began flying out Iranian Jews who fear a wave of repression under a fundamentalist Islamic government.
Five U.S. Air Force planes began flying dependents of American government employes, and "nonessential" employes following Tuesday's evacuation order by the U.S. State Department.
The U.S. embassy here said 355 persons were flown out to bases in Turkey, Greece and West Germany.
News services reported the following from Tehran :
There was general confusion at Tehran airport yesterday as customs and immigration operations broke down completely. Khomeini followers took security for the ayatollah's arrival in their own hands.
Witnesses said many passengers walked up to the tarmac to see off friends or relatives without being checked by the immigration police.
Several thousand frantic men, women and children crowded the departure lounge and milled around airline counters, waving passports and pleading for seats on planes leaving the country.
A jet chartered by Grumman Aerospace Corp. left Iran early today, evacuating most of the firm's employes and dependents, a Grumman spokesman said.
That jet and another chartered jet, which arrived in Greece today, brought out 220 employes and dependents, representing most of Grumman's remaining staff in Iran, spokesman Brian Masterson said.
Only 10 Grumman employes now remain in Isfahan, where the aeronautics firm had a large operation, Masterson said.
"We're taking everybody out, except for 10 people to maintain Grumman's presence there [Isfahan]," Masterson said.
The largest number of Grumman employes ever in Iran was about 1,000 a year ago, Masterson said. Some had left since then because their contracts expired and about 600 had been evacuated in the last several months because of the mounting conflicts in Iran.