Iranian religious leaders fired a new barrage of criticism yesterday against President Abol Hassan Bani-Sadr, coupled with a warning that growing political divisions could lead to a civil strife.

"If the bazaars, the schools, the public offices and other places become the scenes of scuffles and disorder, the end will be suppression of the Islamic republic and nation, civil conflict and people killing each other," said Hojatoleslam Mohammed Ali Khamenei, leader of Tehran's Friday prayer meeting.

In the western city of Khorramabad, the holy city of Qom and over state radio and television, other leading clergymen echoed his warning in apparently coordinated statements.

On state radio, Ayatollah Moussavi Ardebili, Iran's prosecutor general, criticized Bani-Sadr for an article in the paper the president owns, the Islamic Revolution, in which he hinted at resignation.

"Why does the president speak this way when Iran has thousands of problems, the most important of which is the [Iranian-Iraqi] war?" he asked.

Meanwhile, in that conflict, thousands of civilians were reported to have fled the provincial capital of Ahwaz after an Iraqi missile attack riddled a housing complex and killed at least 13 people.

According to official accounts, Ahwaz was hit on Tuesday night by Soviet-made Frog 7 missiles, the most powerful rockets used so far in the six months of fighting.