Iran Would Welcome US Aid Through Private Agency
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Iran is willing to accept earthquake relief from the American Red Cross or other U.S. humanitarian organizations, the State Department announced today.
Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Iran informed the U.S. government that private donor agencies should contact the Iranian Red Crescent, a humanitarian group which is the conduit for all outside assistance.
The U.S. government routinely channels humanitarian assistance through the Red Cross and other donor organizations.
″We want to be helpful without regard for our political differences with Iran,″ Boucher said.
The type of help U.S. charitable groups could send would be based on the recommendations of a U.N. disaster relief team which has been sent to the affected area.
The Iranian message came a day after the Bush administration responded to the tragedy in the northwest part of the country with a message of condolences and an offer of humanitarian aid. Iranian authorities have told U.N. officials the death toll was 35,000.
There have been only rare instances of U.S.-Iranian cooperation since the two countries broke diplomatic relations a decade ago.
U.S. officials brushed aside suggestions that U.S. humanitarian aid could lead to an improvement in relations and perhaps to the release of American hostages held by pro-Iranian groups in Lebanon.
They said the U.S. offer of support was a humanitarian gesture and was not intended as a political signal. Iran reportedly said it would accept aid from all countries with the exception of Israel and South Africa.
According to the officials, a U.S. offer of aid following a previous natural disaster in Iran was turned down.