TEHRAN, Nov. 11, 1978 (UPI) - Karim Sanjabi, leader of the broad-based National Front opposition to the shah, was arrested minutes before he could denounce the regime at a news conference. Sanjabi had just returned from Paris where he met with the Ayatollah Khomeini, exiled leader of Iran's Shiite Moslems and vowed not to cooperate with the martial law regime.
Though the news conference Saturday had not formally begun, Sanjabi was to have spoken about "25 years of strangulation and despotism."
A gold-braided general, several other officers and plainclothes men stalked into Sanjabi's villa, where some 80 foreign correspondents waited, and ushered him out to a waiting car in which he was driven off.
Also arrested with Sanjabi was National Front lawyer Daroush Soroufar.
Earlier, one of Iran's top religious leaders said the people of Iran were fighting to overthrow Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi and were prepared for an "armed struggle" if necessary to achieve it. The general stalked into the home of the 73-year-old former Iranian minister near the shah's palace and asked to see what Sanjabi was about to read.
When given a copy of the prepared statement, he ordered Sanjabi and Soroufar into waiting cars that sped off as stunned journalists looked on.
The frail, dark suited opposition leader smiled weakly as he was ushered into the waiting vehicle outside his palatial villa.
Sanjabi, bespectacled and in an Astrakhan hat, was squeezed into a car filled with five plainclothes men as steel-helmeted troops with fixed bayonets kept watch.
Soroufar's 17-year-old daughter, Parastoo, identified the arresting general as Gen. Ramahi of the Shah's imperial army but she did not know his first name.
The arrest came as violent clashes between troops and demonstrators were reported from various parts of Iran, and the army said that in one of them at the southwestern oil town of Ahvaz two demonstrators were shot dead and several others were injured, one seriously.
Shortly before he was seized, Sanjabi attended a news conference of the Ayatollah Sayed Mahmoud Talehani, who told reporters Iranians were fighting to "overthrow the monarchy."
The frail, white-bearded Moslem leader said that "despite the massacres and savagery that have been witnessed recently, the religious leaders of Iran have not yet made a call for an armed uprising."
"Once the call is made the world will see how prepared Iran's Islamic masses are for an armed struggle," the religious leader said.
Sanjabi walked over to Talehani and the two leaders embraced.
Asked if he thought it would come to that in the present wave of violence and strikes, Talehani said, "If the necessity is seen, the call will be made."
The defiant Moslem leader said that religious and secular opponents of the shah wanted to bring his regime down "with a minimum loss of blood."
But he said that if it does come to an armed uprising, he had "certain evidence" that some senior officers and a section of the armed forces would join it.
Though a nervous calm prevailed in Tehran during Talehani's fiery news conference, there were reports of clashes in other cities between martial law troops and crowds.