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Iran: Powell Sees Chance For Dialogue With Tehran

Washington, 30 December 2003 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says recent conciliatory moves by Iran could lead to restoring a dialogue between the two countries. Powell is being quoted today by "The Washington Post" as saying that there is "a new attitude in Iran" in dealing with other countries.

Powell pointed out that Tehran has recently agreed to permit snap inspections of its nuclear facilities, made overtures to moderate Arab states, and accepted an offer of the U.S. humanitarian aid following an earthquake last week.

Powell said that in view of all those things taken together there is "a possibility of dialogue at an appropriate point in the future."

The United States and Iran have not had diplomatic relations since Islamists overran the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979, took Americans hostage, and held them until January 1981.

In other news, with efforts to find survivors winding down, attention is now turning to helping the thousands left homeless by the devastating 26 December earthquake in Iran.

Focus is turning to providing shelter, food, and heaters to the tens of thousands of survivors in the historic city of Bam, devastated by the quake that left up to 30,000 dead.

Today, India said it is sending three airplanes of humanitarian aid to the devastated region, including 10,000 blankets and 1,000 tents.

Meanwhile, Persian Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, yesterday pledged $400 million in aid to the earthquake victims following appeals for such help from the United Nations.

Yesterday, there was some good news. A six-month-old girl was pulled alive from the rubble in Bam. The infant was cradled in her mother's arms, an embrace that shielded her from falling debris.

Officials said they had recovered and buried 28,000 people, most in makeshift graves with little ceremony.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei visited Bam yesterday and pledged to rebuild the historic city.

President Mohammad Khatami also toured Bam, saying whatever the authorities did, it would be "too little" given the magnitude of the disaster.

The Bam quake is thought to be the deadliest the world has seen since 1990 when an earthquake, also in Iran, claimed 40,000 lives.