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Iran Quake Prompts Looser US Sanctions - 2003-12-31

The Bush administration has temporarily eased currency restrictions and other sanctions against Iran to assist the work of U.S.-based non-governmental organizations taking part in earthquake relief efforts there.

The New Year's Eve announcements were the latest in a series of earthquake-related humanitarian gestures that have improved at least the tone of the U.S. relationship with Iran.

The Treasury Department issued a 90-day blanket license allowing U.S. non-governmental organizations to move funds to Iran to finance aid efforts in the earthquake-ravaged city of Bam.

Officials here also say exports to Iran of some controlled items such as transportation equipment and satellite telephones are being authorized in connection with earthquake relief.

Such transfers have been illegal without specific U.S. government approval under sanctions dating from the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran and takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran.

Senior U.S. and Iranian officials have had rare direct contact since the earthquake, with Iran accepting American aid and allowing U.S. Air Force cargo planes to land there for the first time in more than two decades.