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Iran Hails US Suspension of Sanctions - 2004-01-01

Iranian officials are responding favorably to the U.S. decision to ease sanctions against the Islamic republic to help the flow of humanitarian aid into the country.

Iran's state news agency, IRNA, Thursday quoted Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi as saying the temporary suspension of some U.S. sanctions against Iran was positive.

U.S. officials announced an easing of the sanctions Wednesday to speed the process of delivering humanitarian aid to the earthquake-devastated Iranian city of Bam.

Iran's deputy parliament speaker, Mohammad Reza Khatami, was quoted Thursday as saying Iran would respond in kind to America's positive behavior and goodwill.

Although the younger brother of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami did not specify how Iran might respond, he was quoted as saying the easing of U.S. sanctions would be considered a step forward in building trust and an interest in resolving issues.

However, President Khatami said Tuesday relations between the two countries would not change as the result of U.S. humanitarian aid to Iran.

Secretary of State Colin Powell was quoted this week as saying recent, encouraging moves by Tehran had raised the possibility of resuming official dialogue with the Islamic republic.

The United States severed diplomatic ties with Iran in 1980.

In the meantime, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, held a memorial service Thursday for the estimated 30,000 people who died in the southeastern city of Bam as the result of Friday's deadly earthquake.

Tens of thousands of residents have been left homeless. Most are staying in tents and are building fires to stay warm during nighttime temperatures that have dipped below freezing.

U.N. officials say less than half the original population of 103,000 was left in Bam. The remainder were either killed, in hospitals, missing or left the town that was all but completely destroyed by the quake.