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Last Updated: Monday, 5 January, 2004, 11:54 GMT
Iran considers moving capital
Children playing near the rubble of their home, Bam
Families have set up tents near their destroyed homes
Iran is seriously considering moving the capital away from Tehran amid fears of a major earthquake, the country's top security official has said.

"The capital must be moved," Hassan Rohani told national television.

More than 30,000 people were killed in the 26 December earthquake which flattened the ancient city of Bam.

Tehran lies on a major seismological fault and experts have long warned that a strong earthquake in the city would be devastating.

In Bam itself, the authorities have been registering teachers and pupils in preparation to resume schooling and counselling the survivors.

International aid agencies are this week planning to launch a massive appeal for specific donations to help Bam over the longer term.

A fact-finding survey to assess what people need and where they all are will be used to provide supplies of food and shelter, but also to identify those people most at risk in the aftermath of the earthquake.

Return to Isfahan?

Mr Rohani, who heads the Islamic republic's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) did not say where the capital might be moved to.

But the top contender would likely be the central city of Isfahan, which was the capital in the late 16th century, before the capital was moved to Tehran in 1788.

Mr Rohani was quoted as saying by the Hayat-e No newspaper that the idea of moving the capital was proposed by the SNSC in 1991, "but due to resistance from certain entities in the establishment, the plan was halted."

But he said the proposal would now be updated and submitted for consideration by the end of the Iranian calendar year in March.

The earthquake in Bam measured 6.8 magnitude.

Bahram Akasheh, professor of geophysics at Tehran university, has warned that if a quake of similar magnitude hit Tehran it would kill more than 700,000 people. Government buildings would be destroyed.

The professor has written to President Mohammad Khatami to propose moving the capital to Isfahan.

Teaching plans

Children have been queuing outside tents and prefabricated buildings, as aid workers and local officials took down their names in the first moves to revive Bam's shattered school system.

The head of Kerman province's education department, Mohammad Taghi-Zadeh, told AFP news agency that an estimated 1,200 teachers and 10,000 pupils were killed in the earthquake.

"For certain the teachers and pupils badly need psychological help because they are morally devastated. We are hoping to begin group counselling," said Ali Zang-Abadi, head of education in Bam.

The quake destroyed 90% of the city's buildings. Survivors have been sleeping in tents close to the rubble of their homes.

The authorities are planning to move thousands of families to a network of huge camps being built around the city. But the BBC's Alistair Leithead says many people want to stay where they are.

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