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Tuesday, 2 July, 2002, 14:45 GMT 15:45 UK
US quake aid arrives in Iran
A teacher mourns by the grave of his son
The quake killed 235 people and left thousands homeless
A plane carrying US Government aid for earthquake victims has landed in Iran in an unusual gesture by Washington to a country it has branded a member of the "axis of evil".

The offer of aid from US President George W Bush and its acceptance by Iran has raised hopes of an easing of tensions.

Aid flight
2 mobile water purification systems capable of serving 10,000 people a day
6 10,000-litre water bladders
20,000 hygiene kits
5,000 blankets

But the delivery was kept deliberately low-key in the light of political sensitivities between the two countries which cut diplomatic ties more than 20 years ago.

The earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale killed 235 people and left thousands homeless when it struck near Qazvin in northern Iran on 22 June.

To avoid direct US involvement, the United Nations' children's organisation, Unicef, was asked to carry out the delivery.

Unicef role

A Unicef spokesman in Tehran, Luc Chauvin, said: "The US-registered commercial civilian cargo plane... has no US markings because of the sensitivity of the issue.

"Unicef has been charged with delivering $300,000 worth of aid and the crew of the plane are Ugandan. There is no American on board."

The US cut ties with Iran after dozens of Americans were held hostage in the wake of the Islamic revolution.

Tension escalated last January when Mr Bush labelled Iran, with Iraq and North Korea, as an "axis of evil" which supported global terrorism.

In his offer of aid, Mr Bush referred to the Iranian people, rather than the country's leaders, and said: "Human suffering knows no political boundaries."

When it accepted the offer, Tehran said the aid had "no political character".

The supplies from the US Agency for International Development will be handed on to the Interior Ministry and the Red Crescent to be taken to the disaster zone.

See also:

25 Jun 02 | Middle East
24 Jun 02 | Middle East
22 Jun 02 | Middle East
22 Jun 02 | In Depth
23 Jun 02 | Middle East
23 Jun 02 | Middle East
08 Feb 02 | Country profiles
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