Iran accepts Swiss offer of humanitarian aid
Iranian Red Crescent workers search for survivors amidst the rubble in the village of Bajeh Baj, in Iran's north-west (Keystone)
The Swiss foreign ministry has confirmed that Iran, which was hit by a severe double earthquake on Saturday that killed 306 people and left thousands injured, has accepted its offer of humanitarian assistance.
Four Swiss experts will travel to the earthquake zone in the north-west of the country on Thursday where they will work with Iranian authorities and the Iranian Red Crescent to distribute aid destined to help around 1,000 people.
The aid consists of providing heated and thermally-insulated tents, blankets and ready-built kitchens which will be distributed as quickly as possible.
The Iranian Red Crescent said it refused offers of humanitarian assistance from the United States, Germany, Russia and Taiwan, while local media reported the arrival of humanitarian aid from Qatar, Pakistan, Switzerland and Azerbaijan.
“We do not believe that the United States offered this help in good faith,” Hassan Ghadami of the Iranian interior ministry said according to the AFP news agency. “Do us a favour and lift the sanctions.”
The US does not maintain diplomatic relations with Iran and its interests in the country have been represented by Switzerland for more than 30 years. As part of its good offices, Switzerland has also tried to mediate unofficially in the long-standing dispute over Iran’s disputed nuclear programme.
Switzerland also has sanctions in place against Iran in protest over its nuclear programme, but has stopped short of implementing a ban on trading Iranian oil which would match an embargo in place by the European Union and other measures by the US.