(TEHRAN, Iran) — Iran acknowledged on Tuesday that it needs outside help to assist the victims of two powerful earthquakes that struck the northwestern province of East Azerbaijan last weekend.
More than 300 people were killed and between 3,000 and 5,000 others were injured. The affected region is primarily inhabited by ethnic Azeris, one of Iran’s largest minority populations.
Initially, Tehran said that foreign assistance wasn’t welcomed and that its Red Crescent relief agency could handle the job alone. But apparently, the government changed its stance, with Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi announcing his government will take contributions from other countries.
Earlier in the week, the Obama administration declared that American citizens can make donations without fear of breaking the law since sanctions imposed on Iran make it illegal for businesses and other entities to deal directly with Tehran.
One of the other problems facing Iran is taking care of the 16,000 people left homeless by the quakes, which damaged at least 180 villages.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Ralph Ellis and Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN
Claire Moran, CNN