TEHRAN, Nov. 6, 1978 (UPI) - The shah today named Iran's armed forces commander as prime minister and asked him to form a military government to quell the worst anti-government violence in Tehran in 15 years.
The appointment of Gen. Gholam Reza Azhari to replace Jaafar Sharif-Emami - who resigned hours before - came as a surprise. There had been speculation that former prime minister Ali Amini would be asked to form a national coalition.
The shah, in a rare address to the nation, said that Azhari's government was a transitional one designed to restore order before a national coalition was formed.
The military sent tanks into the streets to prevent new disturbances and threatened to shoot any demonstrators on sight.
The shah also called on the Shiite Moslem clergy, who have opposed him in a violent campaign since last year, to join in restoring law and order in the country.
He also appealed to youths to end their violent campaign that resulted in the burning of government departments, hotels, airline offices and banks across the capital over the weekend.
Azhari, 61, was received by the shah this morning and introduced to his cabinet, whose members were not announced.
The rising violence began taking its toll on foreign targets. In Tokyo, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said it may ask Japanese enterprises in Iran to evacuate their employees because of the violence.
Americans have already been advised not to take any unnecessary trips to Iran during the current unrest.
Sunday's outbreak was the most destructive and fearsome single-day rampage since June 1963 when violent disturbances rocked Tehran following the expulsion of Moslem leader Ayatollah Khomeini - now the Paris-based leader of the shah's opposition.
Anti-shah demonstrators set fire to the British Embassy, four international hotels, airline offices and banks but failed to get past an Iranian army cordon around the U.S. Embassy. Foreign guests fleeing the burning hotels faced jeering crowds but were not harmed.
Demonstrators pulled down and destroyed portraits of the shah and his father, Reza Shah, set fire to the Ministry of Information and beat up Minister Mohammed Reza Ameli-Tehrani, ransacked and destroyed liquor stores and burned many vehicles, including at least 15 public buses.
The violence erupted in retaliation for the army's reported slaying of student demonstrators Saturday as they tried to pull down a statue of the shah at Tehran University. At least five people were known dead but unofficial reports were much higher.
Widespread strikes nearly shut down the capital and a crippling strike that has shut down the nation's $20 billion-a-year oil industry in the southern production areas continued.
The shah held extensive talks Sunday, fueling speculation that a military government might be in the offing. It would be the last resort to halt apparently determined opposition efforts to topple the shah's 37-year regime.
Tanks rolled into the streets Sunday night and took positions at strategic points, indicating a drastic switch in the army's attitude towards demonstrators -- from one of uneasy tolerance Sunday to a willingness for a showdown,
The army issued its harshest warnings against further violence, banning any kind of demonstration during the dusk-to-dawn curfew and telling the city's 4.5 million residents that "violators will be shot after being warned to disperse."
The warning was repeated over Radio Iran with ominous persistence throughout the night, raising fears that any attempts to resist the ban could easily result in killings similar to those on Sept. 8, when martial law was imposed on Tehran and 11 other towns. At least 250 people died in Tehran that day.
The city was near total shutdown as a gasoline shortage struck deep through virtually all operations. A continuing airline strike forced other airlines also to cancel flights for fear of accidents in the absence of ground support staff.
Taxi companies were shut down, food distribution cut off, meat supplies disrupted and bakeries closed partially.
Strikes by telecommunications staff shut down satellite ground station and microwave centers, disrupting telephone and telex communications between Iran and the rest of the world.