The United States has said it has issued a temporary general license to ease sending aid to victims of Iran’s August 11 deadly earthquakes. The U.S. Department of the Treasury said that the general license will remain in effect until October 5, 2012.
Under the license, NGOs can transfer funds up to $300,000 to Iran to be used for humanitarian relief and reconstruction activities related to the earthquake response. To transfer more than $300,000 to Iran, NGOs will need to apply for a special license.
Treasury said in a statement that "the general license is a demonstration of [the] administration's commitment to supporting the Iranian people affected by this tragedy."
The move comes following criticism by Iranian American groups that extensive sanctions imposed on Iran over its controversial nuclear program has complicated sending aid to Iranian victims.
Last week a bipartisan group of House lawmakers, led by Democrat Dennis Kucinich, urged U.S. President Barack Obama to clear the way for U.S. organizations to help the victims of earthquake in Iran.
“Aiding them in their time of need would reaffirm U.S. support for the Iranian people and make clear that our sanctions do not represent an attempt to harm the Iranian people, “ said the lawmakers in a letter to Obama.
The Treasury move was applauded on August 21 by the National Iranian American Council (NIAC).
Message Of Solidarity
NIAC Assistant Policy Director David Elliot said "this humanitarian gesture will empower the American people to help Iranians who've lost everything to this terrible natural disaster."
"The onus is now on the Iranian government to put the well-being of its people first and eliminate all obstacles for delivering aid to the Iranian people," he said in a statement.
More than 300 people were killed and more than 4,500 injured in two earthquakes that hit Iran’s northwest and flattened several villages.
The U.S. responded to the earthquake by sending a message of solidarity to the Iranian people and offering assistance.
State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said following the earthquakes that Americans can send food and medicine to Iran without obtaining a license.
"Our hearts go out to those people who are affected. We have said that we stand ready to provide assistance. We have not had any pick-up of that from the Iranians, and in fact, there have been Iranian public statements in the last 24 hours saying that they did not see the need for foreign assistance. Nonetheless, our offer stays on the table," Nuland said.
Tehran last week rejected the U.S. offer of food and medicine.
Hassan Ghadami, the head of the Interior Ministry's crisis management organization, said Iran did not believe the U.S. had put forward the offer in good faith.
Ghadami said the medicine supply crisis in Iran was the result of international sanctions.
Iranian officials have not yet reacted to the August 21 Treasury move.
Copyright (c) 2012 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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