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No Expiration Date for the Compassion of the American People

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today led 12 Members of Congress in asking President Obama to extend a temporary waiver from sanctions against Iran to ensure that humanitarian assistance can continue to reach the Iranian people.

After a devastating earthquake in northwest Iran killed hundreds and injured thousands this August, Kucinich led Members of Congress to ask the President to issue a general humanitarian waiver to allow American and international non-government organizations to provide assistance to the victims. That waiver was issued on August 21, 2012 but is set to expire tomorrow, October 5, 2012 even though Iranian people are still in need of assistance.

Under current U.S. sanctions, relief organizations require a waiver from the government to provide humanitarian assistance in Iran. In 2003, President Bush issued such a general waiver in response to the devastating earthquake in Bam, Iran.

"We are concerned that the expiration of the earthquake relief waiver will hinder ongoing relief and reconstruction efforts in the region at a time when it is still critically needed. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) reports that the earthquake affected 157,403 persons. The area affected by the devastating earthquake is one of the coldest regions in Iran, and the widespread destruction of housing and continued shortage of shelter is a serious concern as winter approaches. The IFRC is calling for donations of a wide range of supplies, including winter tents, heating stoves, winter clothes, sleeping bags, power generators and prefabricated houses. The U.S. Government should not block nongovernmental assistance efforts now by allowing the waiver to expire," wrote Kucinich and colleagues.

"The current impasse with Iran over its nuclear program should not prevent the American people from aiding earthquake victims or prohibit the export of life-saving medicines to the Iranian people. We stand behind your sentiments expressed in a 2011 speech to the Iranian people in which you discussed the repression of the Iranian government against the Iranian people and affirmed that "though times may seem dark, I want you to know that I am with you.' In this time of crisis, we urge you to take the necessary steps to send a similarly unequivocal message to the Iranian people: the American people stand with you."

The letter was signed by Representatives Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), James Moran (D-VA), Madeleine Z. Bordallo (D-Guam), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Keith Ellison (D-MN), John W. Olver (D-MA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Pete Stark (D-CA), Michael M. Honda (D-CA).

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