Thursday, February 24, 2005

U.S. Offers Iran Quake Aid But is Rebuffed

Reuters, Yahoo! News:
In a rare, direct contact, a senior State Department official telephoned the Iranian government to offer aid after an earthquake killed more than 500 people in southeast Iran but was politely rebuffed, U.S. officials say. The offer was conveyed by Assistant Secretary of State William Burns to Iran's ambassador to the United Nations, Javad Zarif, who declined it, saying Iran was not accepting additional international aid for now, the officials said.

Zarif, speaking through an aide, largely confirmed this account but denied that the Iranian response was a refusal. "Iran did not refuse the help but said we can handle it domestically," he said.

After originally saying it would not accept help from abroad, Iran has requested and received about $180,000 (94,000 pounds) worth of tents and blankets from Japan.

Washington's offer appeared to be part of a U.S. effort to show it is willing to deal with the Iranian government despite its accusations that Tehran is seeking nuclear weapons and its refusal to join a European effort to negotiate a solution. ...