Rebuffed in the past, Israel does not offer Iran earthquake aid
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Disaster diplomacy

Rebuffed in the past, Israel does not offer Iran earthquake aid

'We accept anybody's help but Israel's,' Tehran official said after 2003 temblor

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Iranians search the ruins of buildings at the village of Bajebaj near the city of Varzaqan in northwestern Iran, on Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, after Saturday's earthquake. Twin earthquakes in Iran have killed at least 250 people and injured over 2,000, Iranian state television said on Sunday.  (photo credit: AP/ISNA, Arash Khamoushi)
Iranians search the ruins of buildings at the village of Bajebaj near the city of Varzaqan in northwestern Iran, on Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, after Saturday's earthquake. Twin earthquakes in Iran have killed at least 250 people and injured over 2,000, Iranian state television said on Sunday. (photo credit: AP/ISNA, Arash Khamoushi)

Israel did not offer any emergency aid to Iran, which was struck by two heavy earthquakes that destroyed about a dozen villages in the country’s northwest.

“We offered Iran assistance after earthquakes in the past, but they refused. So this time, we didn’t even bother to ask if they’re interested,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman said in Jerusalem. “Their refusal was pretty impolite, but we’re not making a big fuss about it.”

In 2003, after an earthquake in the southeastern Iranian city of Bam killed more than 26,000 people, unofficial Israeli sources considered offering aid to the Islamic Republic. But a spokesman for Tehran’s Interior Ministry said he would accept help from all countries except one: Israel. “The Islamic Republic of Iran accepts all kinds of humanitarian aid from all countries and international organizations with the exception of the Zionist regime,” the spokesman said.

Iran’s Interior minister at the time, Abdolvahed Mousavi Lari, reportedly said Iran would have accepted aid from the US because it considered Washington’s regime “legitimate.” Any support from Israel would be rejected because Tehran opposes Israel “for its actions against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.” Israel “is a force of occupation,” he was quoted as saying.

Last Saturday, two quakes hit the Iranian province of East Azerbaijan, killing more than 300 people and injuring 3,000. At first, the Iranian authorities refused to accept any foreign aid, but on Tuesday, after heavy criticism on the government’s crisis management, they apparently changed their minds and invited foreign powers to help.

Israel has in the past keenly offered assistance in what has been termed “disaster diplomacy,” an effort understood to aim at improving the government’s standing in the world. In past years, Israel has sent rescue aid to several disaster areas, including Japan, Haiti, Azerbaijan, Jordan and Turkey.

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