Shahpour Bakhtiar, the opposition politician designated by the shah of Iran to form a new civilian government, went on television today to seek popular backing and to propose a program for ending the country's violent civil strife.
But there has been no indication that Bakhtiar, a little-known figure in Iran, has significant support in the country or that the Cabinet that he hopes to form shortly would be accepted by the army, the religious opponents of the shah or the leftists demonstrating in the street.
The resignation of Gen. Gholam Reza Azhari, the military prime minister. yesterday and Bakhtiar's inability so far to form an acceptable Cabinet have left Iran without a functioning government in the midst of its most serious turmoil in decades.
As rioting in provincial cities reportedly took at least a hundred more lives today, the shah, who has been in seclusion, allowed himself to be filmed by television crews in an apparent effort to show that he is conducting business as usual. But American network correspondents who were present said he looked tired and discouraged.
Bakhtair, 63, a long-time opponent of the shah, now appears to be working for a political solution that would save the shah's throne. But Bakhtiar made no mention of the shah in his speech, leaving unanswered the crucial question of the future of the monarch under the proposed new government.
Bakhtiar pledged that he would not "let the country slide into decline and annihilation" and he said he would "establish a true social democracy... gradually lift martial law" and free political prisoners.
The French-educated Bakhtiar, a deputy minister of labor and public relations chief in the Cabinet of Mohammed Mossadegh, who was overthrown by the shah's forces with CIA assistance in 1953, has never been considered a major opposition leader.
His effort to form a government now has drawn an angry response from many hard-line opponents of the shah. Slogans condemning Bakhtiar have appeared with increasing frequency on walls in Tehran and demonstrators have begun shouting: "We don't want shah or Shahpour! Down with them both!"
The shah and the eight-week military government of Azhari had no success in efforts to quell a wave of riots and strikes. Another 106 persons were killed in rioting in provincial cities today, officials said. The state announced early today that Azhari resigned Sunday night and that the shah had asked him to stay on as caretaker prime minister until a new government is formed.
However, the radio said, Azhari delegated his duties to an unidentified deputy because he is still recovering from a heart attack suffered 12 days ago.
This leaves Iran, in effect, a country without a government. Azhari's Cabinet ministers have given up going to their offices assuming they are soon to be replaced and the ministries are not functioning anyway.
The announcement of Azhari's resignation said the shah had "agreed to go abroad for a while at an appropriate time for medical treatment and relaxation."
In the television session today, the shah said he wanted to take a winter vacation but would do so only "when matters improve." Aides said he would stay in Iran until order is restored.
In his address, Bakhtiar pledged to free political prisoners, permit any political parties that do not serve foreign interests, uphold the Shiite Moslem state religion and punish those who violated people's rights, profited from corruption or squandered public funds.
He promised financial compensation to the families of "martyrs" of the past three months, a reference to demonstrators killed by the army.
He said he intended to present his Cabinet by the end of the week.
Two senior leaders of the opposition National Front, which expelled Bakhtiar after he accepted the shah's mandate to form a government, have gone underground, fearing a crackdown under a possible coup in which they would be punished for their rejection of a Bakhtiar government.
A National Front spokesman acknowledged that Karim Sanjabi and Dariush Foruhar had left their homes for "security reasons."
An opposition source said the shah had agreed Sunday to leave the country but military hard liners were blocking the move to protect their interests. The source said the hard-line generals were rejecting American advice to support the original Bakhtiar proposals for a civilian government to be formed in the shah's "provisional" absence.
Opposition sources said they saw a strong possibility of a military coup if a Bakhtiar government came to power and failed to restore order. One of Bakhtiar's aides expressed similar concern.
"If Dr. Bakhtiar does not succeed, a coup is certainly possible," he said.
Political analysts were pessimistic about Bakhtiar's attempt to compromise between the hard-line military and the shah's opponents. Political concessions that would placate demonstrators might be unacceptable to the army, but repressive measures favored by the military would only increase the confrontation in the streets.
Opposition efforts to persuade workers in Iran's strike-bound oil fields to return to their jobs to produce at least enough petroleum to meet domestic needs have so far proved unsuccessful, oil industry sources said.
Opposition sources said even a delegation sponsored by the exiled Moslem leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, failed to persuade workers to end their current month-old strike that has caused severe gasoline and kerosene shortages and stopped exports.
Oil production today was reported at 228,000 barrels, less than a third of the daily domestic consumption. Iran's daily production before the strike was 6.5 million barrels a day.
The refusal to work, even after an appeal by the revered ayatollah, appeared to make the task of ending the country's year-long political crisis that much more difficult, analysts said.
Industry sources said all but a handful of the 2,000 foreign oil workers and dependents living in the petroleum center of Ahwaz in southwestern Iran have now left the country.