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Iran: President Estimates More Than 40,000 Dead In Quake

Kerman, 30 December 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Iranian President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami estimated today the death toll in the earthquake that devastated the southeastern city of Bam on 26 December at more than 40,000. Officials and international rescue workers are today turning their attention from searching for bodies, to caring for the survivors.

Some 200 workers from international rescue teams started returning home today, lowering the number of international workers to 1,500, as hopes dimmed that anyone could be found still alive under the ruins.

Khatami also said that U.S. aid to victims, while welcome, will not alter the relations between the two nations.

Khatami stressed that only a "profound change" in U.S. policy would settle the problems between Washington and Tehran.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell was quoted today by "The Washington Post" as saying the Iranian government's acceptance of U.S. aid for Bam was among several signs of improving ties between the two countries.