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U.S. Offers Help To Iran's Earthquake Victims

Rescue teams search for victims in the earthquake-stricken village of Varzaqan near Ahar, in East Azerbaijan province, August 12, 2012.

The Iranian government has agreed to accept foreign aid.

After initially turning back offers of assistance, the Iranian government has agreed to accept foreign aid to help the victims of the twin earthquakes that recently hit the northwestern province of East Azerbaijan.

Over 300 people were killed and more than 3000 injured when the earthquakes struck on August 11.

The United States was among the first nations to offer sympathy and assistance to the victims of the disaster. “The American people send the Iranian people our deepest condolences for the loss of life in the tragic earthquake in northwestern Iran,” said the White House Press Secretary in a statement on August 12.

Even though the Iranian government refused to accept the U.S. government’s offer of assistance, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland spoke about what Iranian Americans and others in the United States could do to help the victims:

“Americans wishing to provide humanitarian assistance to Iranians during this time may donate food and medicine without obtaining an Iranian transactions regulations license.”

Donations of food and medicine to Iran for humanitarian purposes have always been exempt from the sanctions on trade between the U.S. and Iran, provided the donations are not being sent to the Government of Iran or an Iranian individual or entity specifically designated by the Treasury Department to be working on behalf of the regime.

In addition, in a further effort to help the Iranian people recover and build, the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, known as OFAC, has announced the issuance of a temporary general license to ease financial transactions related to earthquake relief in Iran.

Under the general license, which will be in effect until October 4, 2012, a non-governmental organization can collect up to $300,000 in direct support of humanitarian relief and reconstruction activities in response to the earthquakes. Also, NGOs interested in transferring more than $300,000 dollars during the 45 day period may apply for a specific license.

The Treasury Department said in a statement that the U.S. Government issued this general license as a demonstration of the U.S. “commitment to supporting the Iranian people affected by this tragedy, and responds to the American people’s desire to provide immediate assistance.”