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12/30/03 - U.S. AIDS IRANIAN QUAKE VICTIMS - 2003-12-30

Countries around the world, including the United States, are rushing aid to survivors of the earthquake that devastated the southern Iranian city of Bam on December 26th. More than twenty-eight thousand people were killed by the earthquake, the deadliest in the world in the past decade.

Soon after learning of the disaster, President George W. Bush extended condolences and said the U.S. was “ready to help the people of Iran.” The offer was favorably received by Iranian officials, and the U.S. military began flying tons of medical and other supplies to Iran from bases in Kuwait. As the U.S. cargo planes landed in the Iranian city of Kerman, according to news reports, U.S. airmen and Iranian soldiers worked side by side to unload the supplies.

The U.S. has also sent disaster relief specialists to Iran, says Adam Ereli, the State Department’s deputy spokesman:

“From the State Department, the United States Agency for International Development dispatched a seven-member disaster assistance response team to Bam, along with seventy-seven technical and medical specialists. . . . This team is to provide emergency humanitarian assistance to the victims of the Bam earthquake.”

The U.S. has not had diplomatic relations with Iran for more than two decades. But the death and destruction from the Iranian earthquake, said Mr. Ereli, are a humanitarian tragedy that transcends political considerations:

“I would say that we stand ready to continue our assistance and to respond to the needs of the victims of this tragedy as appropriate and as requested.”

As President Bush said, “The thoughts of all Americans are with the [Iranian] victims and their families at this time.”