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08/22/12

NIAC Applauds General License for Earthquake Assistance

Source: National Iranian American Council (NIAC)

NIAC strongly applauds the White House for issuing a temporary general license authorizing charitable organizations to provide direct humanitarian and reconstruction assistance to the victims of the earthquakes in northwest Iran.

“This humanitarian gesture will empower the American people to help Iranians who’ve lost everything to this terrible natural disaster,” said NIAC assistant policy director David Elliott. “The White House should be commended for ensuring that emergency relief efforts won’t be held hostage to the bad relations between the two countries.”

The White House’s decision comes after thousands of Americans, 14 members of Congress, and a broad coalition of organizations wrote to the President urging him to issue a general license exempting humanitarian relief efforts from sanctions on Iran. President Bush issued a similar sanctions waiver after a devastating earthquake hit Bam, Iran in 2003.

"The onus is now on the Iranian government to put the wellbeing of its people first and eliminate all obstacles for delivering aid to the Iranian people,” Elliott said.

Even though the Iranian government has refused formal aid from the U.S. government, the general license will enable U.S. nongovernmental organizations to provide humanitarian assistance directly to the Iranian people.

Last week, NIAC worked closely with Congressman Kucinich (D-OH) to advance a letter urging President Obama to issue such a general license and for the “administration to provide public guidance that financial institutions are permitted and encouraged to facilitate all legal transactions that have been licensed by the U.S. Government.” As that letter made clear, the Obama Administration should encourage financial institutions to facilitate all OFAC-licensed transactions like relief assistance, so that these efforts are not blocked by banks that are overzealously applying the sanctions.

“This general license means that more organizations will be able to provide emergency assistance more quickly” said Elliott.

There are a number of nonprofit organizations working to provide disaster assistance, including Moms Against Poverty, Relief International, Children of Persia, Child Foundation, and Iranian American Muslim Association of North America (IMAN).

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