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Iran's Khamenei OKs Tapping Special Fund For Flood Relief As Last Resort

Flood damage in the Iranian city of Pol-e Dokhtar, in Lorestan Province

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has approved drawing up to $2 billion from the country's National Development Fund as a last resort for aid and reconstruction after catastrophic floods, state media reported on April 15.

The government said on April 14 that the floods had caused an estimated $2.5 billion in damage to roads, bridges, homes, and farmland. The floods, Iran's worst in 70 years, had killed at least 76 people and forced more than 220,000 into emergency shelters, the government told lawmakers.

"Using the National Development Fund is authorized if no other sources are available," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a letter to President Hassan Rohani read out April 15 on state television.

However, Khamenei urged the government to look into other budgetary resources to fund aid and reconstruction efforts before drawing from the sovereign fund.

Khamenei's letter did not give an amount but Morteza Shahidzadeh, who is in charge of the fund, said earlier that Rohani had asked to withdraw $2 billion and Khamenei had in principle agreed.

In Geneva, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said April 15 that an estimated 2 million Iranians needed humanitarian assistance as a result of the floods.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AP