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PM speaks to Khatami, offers help

NEW DELHI DEC. 27. The Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, spoke to the Iranian President, Seyed Mohammad Khatami, today and conveyed condolences over the loss of lives in the devastating earthquake in Bam and offered assistance, including medicine, tents and blankets.

He also offered to send a rapid response team to the quake-hit area to help in rescue and relief work, official sources said.

Mr. Khatami said he was grateful for the concern and offers of help from friends like India to cope with the tragedy.

Modalities for providing the assistance would be worked out by the embassies of the two countries.

The President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, also sent a message to his Iranian counterpart expressing grief over the calamity which has claimed many lives and resulted in extensive damage to property.

Mr. Kalam, in his message, said "as a friend, India is ready to extend assistance in relief efforts in whatever manner is required."

The Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, expressing shock and sadness at the death of thousands of people, said: "Whenever Iran wants assistance, India will be ready to provide it."

The Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, offered the expertise and experience of the State in rehabilitating the quake victims, Mr. Advani said adding that the External Affairs Ministry would coordinate the relief efforts.

The External Affairs Minister, Yashwant Sinha, in a letter to Mr. Khatami expressed his grief over the loss of lives and offered assistance in the rescue and relief operations.

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