TEHRAN, JUNE 4 -- An estimated 8 million Iranians converged on the golden-domed tomb of the ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini near here today in an emotional tribute commemorating the first anniversary of the Iranian spiritual leader's death.
Weeping and beating their breasts in the traditional Shiite Moslem expression of mourning, the massed millions repeatedly shouted approval as Khomeini's successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, used the occasion to deliver a fiery speech attacking the United States.
America is "the pinnacle of sedition and corruption and has a very profound enmity with the Iranian nation," Khamenei said. "The Iranian revolution will in no way reconcile with Americans, and they will not reconcile with the revolution." Khamenei extolled his predecessor, who guided the 1979 fundamentalist upheaval that drove the country's long-ruling shah Reza Pahlavi from power, "as revolutionary Islam personified in both his private and public life."
Khomeini was 86 when he died of a heart attack following surgery for abdominal cancer on June 3, 1989. He was buried three days later in a tumultuous show of popular grief, during which tens of thousands of distraught mourners besieging his body caused it to topple from its bier.
Today's crowd began arriving at the funerary shrine south of the city at dawn. They came from all over the country by car and on foot, and journalists ferried in by helicopter could see stalled, bumper-to-bumper traffic extending for miles around the site.
By afternoon, temperatures had reached the high 90s, and an estimated half-dozen persons were fainting every minute, the Iranian news agency IRNA reported. During Khomeini's funeral, at least eight persons died of heat stroke and the crush of the crowd.
The air-conditioned, chandeliered shrine itself was packed with an estimated 150,000 people of all ages, the sea of black-shirted men separated by ropes from women clad in chadors, the traditional black Islamic robe.
Khamenei said the "Khomeini era" has been felt internationally, with "religious beliefs and spiritualism becoming attractive in a world dominated by materialism," and he declared that the upheavals that toppled Communist dictatorships in East Europe had followed the example of Iran's mass movement against the shah.
He acknowledged, however, that Iran has two weak points -- internal disunity and the economy. "Differences of opinion must not cause division among people," he said, warning government officials in particular to be mindful of this in speeches. He also appealed for support of the government's efforts to rebuild Iran's economy and infrastructure, left largely in ruins by the devastating eight-year war with Iraq that ended two years ago.