Visiting Iran, Britain's Prince Charles met with survivors of the December earthquake that killed 40,000 people in Bam. The prince also held private talks with President Mohammed Khatami.

Prince Charles toured the ruins of the devastated ancient city of Bam and offered words of consolation to residents, many of whom are living in tents because their homes were destroyed.

The heir to the British throne also met with Iran's president, Mohammad Khatami, who has been enmeshed in a dispute between reformists and conservatives over this month's parliamentary election.

But British officials stress that the prince is visiting Iran for humanitarian, not political reasons.

Iran's official news agency said the two men talked about the potential for misunderstanding between Islamic countries and the west. It quoted President Khatami as saying Iran's new openness to international inspections of its nuclear facilities is an effort to avoid such misunderstandings.

The prince is visiting during celebrations of 25 years of Islamic rule in Iran.

Relations between Iran and the west have been chilly since the Islamic revolution that overthrew the shah in 1979. But in recent years Britain has pursued a policy of increased dialogue with Iran.

Prince Charles' visit is the first by a member of the British royal family since before the revolution.