AFP: The United States on Tuesday offered assistance to Iran and Pakistan after a massive earthquake near their border, despite Washington’s tense relationship with Tehran. WASHINGTON (AFP) — The United States on Tuesday offered assistance to Iran and Pakistan after a massive earthquake near their border, despite Washington’s tense relationship with Tehran.
Secretary of State John Kerry offered “our deepest condolences” to the families of the dead and to the injured following the 7.8 magnitude quake that killed at least 34 people.
“We stand ready to offer assistance in this difficult time,” Kerry said.
Disaster relief contributed to an earlier thaw in relations between the United States and Iran, which — then led by reformist president Mohammad Khatami — accepted US personnel following the massive Bam earthquake in 2003.
But Iran has declined US offers for assistance in more recent tragedies. The two nations have not had diplomatic relations since the aftermath of Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.
The United States has spearheaded sweeping economic sanctions on Iran due to concerns among Israel and Western governments that the clerical regime is building an atomic bomb. Tehran says its nuclear program is peaceful.
State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said that humanitarian relief was exempt from sanctions, although Iranian American groups have complained that even legal transactions with Iran often come under scrutiny.
The United States has also engaged in disaster diplomacy with Pakistan, briefly improving its pitiful image in the country through a robust relief operation following a 2005 earthquake in Pakistani-administered Kashmir.