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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 January, 2004, 18:08 GMT
Iran leaders welcome US 'signals'
US Disaster Assessment Response Team member in Bam
The quake is bringing old enemies together - at least, for a time
America's decision to suspend sanctions on Iran to allow foreign funds to reach the Bam earthquake relief effort has been commended by leading Iranians.

The foreign minister welcomed the move but said sanctions should be scrapped, while an ex-president said the US had long been sending out positive signals.

Another politician hinted Iran might make a friendly gesture of its own.

Washington, which accuses Iran of supporting terrorism, cut diplomatic ties after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Over the next 90 days, donations from Americans can be made to organisations based in Iran and sensitive technology including computers and satellite telephones can be exported to the country.

The BBC's Jim Muir reports from Tehran that some optimists are already calling it "earthquake diplomacy" but notes that a political reconciliation is not inevitable, given that elements in both countries are strongly opposed.

However, our correspondent adds, the Bam earthquake has certainly created a climate of goodwill which will undoubtedly make it easier if the political blocks on both sides fall into place.

Iranian gesture

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi said the sanctions move was positive but added that the "permanent and total lifting of the sanctions would introduce a new climate" in bilateral relations.

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president of the Islamic Republic, said the US had been "in the process of sending positive signals for several months now".

The younger brother of current President Mohammad Khatami also noted America's "positive behaviour".

"I'm sure that goodwill will be answered with goodwill," Mohammad Reza Khatami, who is a deputy parliamentary speaker, added.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell hinted this week that there could be a "dialogue at an appropriate point".


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