The niece of the shah and the most politically active member of the young generation of the Iranian royal family greeted the news of the shah's death today in the time-cosecrated manner of royalty. "The king is dead, long live the king."
Princess Azzadeh Shafik, 29, daughter of the shah's twin sister Princess Ashraf, said via a spokesman here that there is no disagreement inside the royal family over the automatic succession to the title of shah by the crown prince, Reza Cyrus.
Meanwhile, former premier Shahpour Bakhtiar, a lifelong opponent of the shah who had consented to be his prime minister under a "constitutional" government, said that while he refuses to rejoice over the death of a man, he is about to issue an appeal in the name of "all the nationalist and progressive forces" of Iran to group themselves "around me." Already the most prominent exile leader here, Bakhtiar's prestige was greatly enhanced after he escaped an assasination attempt in which two others were killed.
The former ruler's death reduces the obstacle created inside the opposition to Iran's Islamic government by those who had a "personal nostalgia for the shah," Bakhtiar said. In any case, his death removes the question of whether he could be restored to power as a source of division among the exiles.
In the last weeks of his life some monarchist elements are known to have sounded out the shah about pushing aside his 19-year-old elder son in favor of his 13-year-old younger brother, Ali Reza. The idea was to name a new, long-serving regency council that would also serve as a political directorate uniting all the monarchists.
The ailing shah is understood to have rejected that, along with the suggestion that he should abdicate in favor of one of his two sons.
The crown prince will become the head of the royal family upon his 20th birthday Oct. 31. Until then, his mother Farah Dibah, will serve as the regent under a law enacted in 1967, according to Azzadeh. She has been shuttling between her uncle's bedside in Cairo and Paris, where she heads the Free Iran movement, composed of young monarchist officers originally grouped around her brother, a naval captain assassinated here last December.
The 1967 law provides that Farah will be assisted by a regency council. But the last council, appointed by the shah when he left Iran in early 1979, dissolved itself after the takeover by the Islamic revolutionary government. It was not immediately clear whether Farah would name her own council.
"Mohammad Reza Shah is dead as a man," Azzadeh said. "But the king never dies in Iran."
Her statement in the name of the Free Iran movement is seen here as indicating the end to any hestiations in the circle immediately surrounding the royal family to accepting the crown prince as his father's successor.
Crown Prince Reza was trained as a pilot at Reese Air Force Base at Lubbock, Tex. Some monarchists suggested that his background, training and interest in public affairs were too limited and that a longer regency over his younger brother would provide the opportunity to prepare a successor with a more appropriate grounding. Since that argument failed to win over the shah, some of the same people who advocated it are now saying that Reza Cyrus' apparent lack of interest in politics was simply a crown prince's natural deference to his father.
Meanwhile, the leader of the militant students in Tehran was quoted by a French radio reporter as saying: "Our position on the hostage problem does not change with the shah's death. We do not want his corpse. Now we are demanding restitution of his wealth."
Princess Azzadeh called the problem of her uncle's fortune "secondary." She noted that there are many rich Iranians whose goods are not being demanded back by the new Tehran authorities. Her deceased uncle was "the son of a king whose fortune he naturally inherited," she said. "Did anyone ever contest the right of President Kennedy to inherit from his father?"