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Iran thanks America for earthquake relief

<font color="#000000"><font color="#0080ff">President Mohammad Khatami thanked the United States for aid but played down talk that Washington’s contribution would thaw frosty relations.</font><br /></font></p>
Image: Men carry body of quake victim for burial
Iranian men carry the body of an earthquake victim to a grave Tuesday in Bam.Majid / Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

As survivors of Iran’s earthquake scavenged for clothes and jostled for handouts Tuesday, President Mohammad Khatami thanked the United States for aid but played down talk that Washington’s contribution would thaw frosty relations.

Khatami’s remarks came after Secretary of State Colin Powell said he sees a “new attitude” in Iran that could lead to a restoration of ties between the United States and the Islamic republic that President Bush has called part of an “axis of evil."

“There are things happening, and therefore we should keep open the possibility of dialogue at an appropriate point in the future,” Powell was quoted as saying in Tuesday’s Washington Post.
Iranian leaders have agreed to permit unannounced inspections of the country’s nuclear energy program and made overtures to moderate Arab governments. They also accepted an offer of U.S. humanitarian aid after last week’s devastating magnitude-6.6 earthquake.

Powell lauds 'new attitude'
“All of those things taken together show, it seems to me, a new attitude in Iran in dealing with these issues — not one of total, open generosity, Powell said. “But they realize that the world is watching and the world is prepared to take action.

“Humanitarian issues should not be intertwined with deep and chronic political problems,” Khatami said of any connection between American relief support and diplomatic ties. “If we see change both in tone and behavior of the U.S. administration, then a new situation will develop in our relations."

The United States and Iran have not had diplomatic relations since radical Islamists overran the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979, took Americans hostage and held them until January 1981.

Still, Russia’s Foreign Ministry was quick to welcome Powell’s remarks, saying it “may become a positive impulse for the movement toward the normalization of relations between these countries.Along the ruined streets of Bam, crowds of people surrounded aid trucks. Women in black chadors, some carrying infants, scrambled for old clothes. Some young men tried to clamber onto a truck to help themselves but were pushed back.