Iran Criticizes U.S. Quake Relief Efforts
Friday January 2, 2004 4:31 PM
By MATTHEW PENNINGTON
Associated Press Writer
BAM, Iran (AP) - Hardliners in Iran's government criticized U.S. relief efforts after the
devastating earthquake that killed more than 30,000 people and flattened the ancient city of Bam,
accusing Washington of trying to meddle in Tehran's affairs.
The criticism came as the Bush administration considered sending Sen. Elizabeth Dole to Iran as part
of a relief mission after the 6.6-magnitude quake, and asked President Mohammad Khatami whether
Tehran would allow a Dole-led delegation, an administration official said Friday.
Dole's making the trip would send a clear signal of American interest in providing aid as a prelude
to a possible political opening to Iran, which Bush has characterized as part of an ``axis of
The United States already has sent Iran several planes full of humanitarian relief, including teams
of doctors and aid workers, despite diplomatic relations severed since the 1979 hostage crisis.
Khatami has thanked Washington for its support but hardline clerics within the government expressed
suspicion about the motives behind U.S. aid offers.
State radio, a mouthpiece for Iran's clerics, on Friday charged that Bush had ``once again
demonstrated that America's interfering and hostile policy against Iran has not altered at all.''
There was no immediate word about any answer from Khatami about a possible visit by Dole, a former
president of the American Red Cross, the U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Bush, shortly after the Dec. 26 tragedy, said he was glad the Iranians had accepted U.S.
assistance - a rare bit of cooperation between the two nations since their relations were broken by
the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
But the president added: ``The Iranian government must listen to the voices of those who long for
freedom, must turn over al-Qaida that are in their custody and must abandon their nuclear weapons
Iran insists its nuclear program is entirely peaceful. It has acknowledged holding some al-Qaida
militants but calls that an internal matter.
``The Americans, by publicizing their aid to Iran, have ineptly tried to implement their duplicitous
policy of creating a rift between the Iranian nation and government,'' state radio said in an
unattributed commentary, adding that ``our people's solidarity'' will stop that from happening.
Iranian radio said recent conciliatory remarks from top U.S. officials, including Secretary of State
Colin Powell, were aimed at concealing Washington's anti-Iran policies at a time when the world's
attention is focused on the devastation from the quake.
``One should therefore not trust the expression of opinion, speeches and other optimistic signals
that are sent by the American foreign policy authorities toward Iran from time to time,'' the radio
Instead of sending ``meager aid'' to help quake victims, Washington should unfreeze billions of
dollars of Iranian assets, the radio commentary said.
In Bam, American aid workers have generally received a warm welcome from Iranian doctors and quake
victims, though one cleric was sharply critical Friday and said the American team should go home.
``We hate the arrogance of the Americans and we are sure that they haven't come for humanitarian
reasons, but for other things like spying,'' said Abdullah Irani, a mullah from Qum, the main center
for Shiite clerics in Iran.
The United Nations plans to complete an assessment of Bam's water, sanitation, food and shelter
needs by the middle of next week, said Ted Pearn, manager of the U.N. On-Site Operations
At least five or six countries, including the United States, are working with U.N. agencies to help
conduct the review of what is needed in Bam, which was ravaged by the Dec. 26 and its aftershocks.
Bill Garvelink, the U.S. Agency for International Development official leading the team in Bam, said
the destruction was worse than in any quake zone he had ever seen.
``It's incredible,'' Garvelink said. ``Bam is literally a rubble pile. I haven't seen any business
functioning and you don't see anybody living in their homes.''
Many residents have either left or are staying in tents amid the ruins.
The possible Dole trip, first reported Friday in the Wasington Post, would be as part of a
delegation including an unspecified number of Bush administration officials. It would be the first
public U.S. official visit since 52 Americans were held hostage in Iran for 444 days from 1979 to
With at least 90 percent of the city cleared of corpses, and hopes of finding new survivors all but
lost, three international search and rescue teams departed Friday. Seven remain.