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Wednesday, 10 May, 2000, 02:05 GMT 03:05 UK
Drought hits Iran's farmers

The Iranian parliament has approved an emergency aid package worth over $180m for farmers hit by the serious drought in central and eastern parts of the country.

Iran is very well organised to deal with emergency situations. It has infrastructures which other countries in the region lack

UN co-ordinator Francesco Bastagli

The announcement came as senior Shi'ite Muslim clerics in the holy city of Qom called on Iranians to pray for rain.

"The lack of rain and the threat of drought, a cause of great concern, is not without its links to sins that have been committed," a statement from the clerics said.

A United Nations official has said that Iran is ready to accept foreign aid for only the second time in the history of the Islamic regime.

The parliament also announced that state banks would delay loan repayments by farmers for two years.

Dead camels

The official, UN co-ordinator Francesco Bastagli, said that Iran had not asked for help but said it might accept it to support its own relief efforts.

Vultures hover as livestock die

Reports on Iranian television have described the drought as an unprecedented disaster and have shown footage from some of the worst affected regions, with dead camels lying on the roads.

Officials say that Iran has suffered from drought in nearly half of the past 22 years.

Water rationing

Iran, a major food importer, had to import a record six million tonnes of wheat in the year to March; produce prices are reported to have risen 10% in the past week alone.

Almost the whole of the central Iranian plateau has suffered badly, with the provinces of Sistan-Baluchistan and Yazd particularly hard hit. Lack of rain there has threatened to dry up several rivers needed to irrigate crops.

And water has reportedly been rationed in eastern Khorasan province, with water cut off entirely to 10,000 households in 75 villages.

Water is being taken there by tanker.

The drought has also affected millions of people in the neighbouring countries of Aghanistan, Pakistan and even India.

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02 May 00 | South Asia
Appeal for Afghan drought victims
10 Apr 00 | South Asia
UN warns of Afghan drought
26 Apr 00 | South Asia
Drought hits southern Afghanistan
30 Apr 00 | South Asia
India drought spreads
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