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Bush: Aid to Iran Does Not Change US Policy - 2004-01-02


President Bush says the United States has been sending humanitarian aid to help earthquake victims in Iran because that is the right thing to do, but the aid airlift does not indicate a change in U.S. policy toward Tehran.

Mr. Bush says Americans care about easing human suffering, and it is important to help Iran. But at the same time, the president says, the United States expects Iran's leaders to listen to the voices of those who long for freedom, to turn over al-Qaida terrorists in their custody, and to abandon their nuclear-weapons program.

Mr. Bush spoke with reporters Thursday about efforts to speed relief aid to victims of the deadly earthquake, which struck southeastern Iran one week ago. The decision (announced Wednesday) to suspend some U.S. sanctions against Tehran for 90 days has been welcomed by a number of Iranian officials.

During a memorial service for earthquake victims Thursday, former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said recent developments could have a positive impact on Iranian-American relations.

In Tehran, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said ending the U.S. sanctions permanently would create a new atmosphere between the two countries.

In the ancient city of Bam, three people were pulled out alive Thursday -- more than six days after they were trapped by the earthquake. Iranian officials say at least 30,000 people died in Bam and the surrounding region.

More than 1000 foreign rescue workers, including an 80-member U.S. team, are involved in relief efforts in southeastern Iran.

Earlier this week, Iran's President Mohammad Khatami said U.S. aid is welcome, but there will be no thaw in relations until Washington changes its policies on Iran.

The United States cut diplomatic ties with Iran and imposed economic sanctions on that country shortly after its 1979 Islamic revolution.

Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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