Iran's parliament initiated impeachment proceedings against President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr today as a massive crowd demonstrated outside to demand the moderate leader be dismissed.
The Islamic regime warned at the same time that security forces stood ready to prevent any show of support for the beleaguered Bani-Sadr, who was said to be in hiding following a bomb attack on his home and a roundup of other moderates.
Tehran radio said 'a procedural bill governing the motion on the president's political incompetence was introduced' at the open session of the Majlis (parliament.)
'After speeches by a number of deputies, for and against, the bill was approved in first reading,' the radio said.
The procedural bill apparently cleared the way for impeachment proceedings to begin against Bani-Sadr.
The radio said that while the Majlis met, a large crowd rallied outside demanding Bani-Sadr's dismissal. The demonstrators carried placards desclaring support for the parliament as well as pictures of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
The prosecutor's office warned 'counter-revolutionary mini-groups' intended to use the pretext of supporting the president 'to cause chaos and pave the way for the return of U.S. imperialism.'
Security forces were watching developments with 'revolutionary decisiveness,' the radio said.
The Majlis voted Tuesday to go ahead with the debate on the president's competance as 3,000 God's Party militants shouted 'Death to Bani-Sadr' outside the parliament building. Hundreds of other fundamentalists across Tehran chanted 'Bani-Sadr the traitor should be executed.'
A petition from 120 members of the 270-man Majlis had requested today's debate, which could end with a vote on Bani-Sadr's impeachment -- a vote he would have no chance of winning in the clergy-dominated body.
The Majlis speaker had postponed the debate for two days, apparently hoping the now almost powerless Bani-Sadr would bow to pressure and heed Khomeini's call to 'repent.'
Bani-Sadr, 48, the first elected president in Iran's history, was said by an aide to be 'in a hideout and ... in danger' as armed militants stalked his office and screamed for his death.
A bomb exploded Monday at his house while the president was home. He was not injured, the aide said, but after the blast, which damaged the garden, Bani-Sadr went into hiding.
'You know I cannot talk ... all these conversations are monitored,' the aide told UPI when asked by telephone about Bani-Sadr's whereabouts.
Eight top aides of Bani-Sadr were arrested Monday and Islamic authorities Tuesday rounded up more moderates, including supporters of former premier Mehdi Bazargan, under fire for boycotting the parliamentiary session to unseat the president.
Bani-Sadr had clearly lost in the bitter power struggle that began immediately after his election Jan. 26, 1980. Khomeini, who had initially been neutral, suddenly turned on Bani-Sadr this month and stripped him of power, including his command of the armed forces.