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Aftershocks Continue To Rock Bam As Agencies Try To Help Iran Quake Survivors

Bam, Iran; 1 January 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Officials say about 30 significant aftershocks have rocked Bam since an earthquake devastated the Iranian city on 26 December.

Humanitarian agencies today are conducting a census of survivors and assessment of their needs. UN officials say about 40,000 of the original population of 103,000 people are now trying to survive freezing nights in tents.

Iranian officials have welcomed the temporary lifting of U.S. sanctions in the wake of the quake and cautiously expressed hope for an improvement in relations.

Deputy parliament speaker Mohammad Reza Khatami said today that parliament is now evaluating the U.S. government's "positive behavior" and that "goodwill will be answered with goodwill".

His comments come after the U.S. Treasury announced that banking restrictions on Iran are being eased temporarily to speed the flow of humanitarian relief to earthquake victims.

A team of U.S. aid workers joined international relief efforts in Bam. Marty Bahamonde, a spokesman for the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, said today that survivors are now in the focus of help.

"Everything we have been told by the Iranians is there is a desperate need for medical care and we have been informed today that as soon as we are up and running completely [with a U.S. field hospital] that they are just ready to bring people in. So, I think they [U.S. medical/aid workers] are absolutely optimistic that they are going to be able to make a difference here," he said.

An 80-member team from the United States is the first official visit by Americans since Washington cut ties with Iran after the 1979 Iranian revolution.