Iran says foreign aid for earthquake survivors welcome

An Iranian resident from the village of Baje-Baj, near the town of Varzaqan, stands on top of the rubble of his destroyed home on August 12, 2012, as rescue workers search for survivors from the twin earthquakes that struck Saturday.

Iran has opened the door to foreign aid to help the survivors of two earthquakes in the country’s northwest at the weekend that killed more than 300 people and injured thousands.

After initially refusing offers of help from the United States, Germany, Russia, Turkey and other nations, Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi said today the country was “ready to receive foreign assistance,” Bloomberg reported.

Tehran has been criticized for its slow response to the 6.4 and 6.3 magnitude quakes that hit the region bordering Azerbaijan and Armenia on Saturday, leaving tens of thousands of people homeless, the Associated Press reported.

More from GlobalPost: Iran relief effort to earthquake victims criticized by local residents

Health officials have said that the majority of the dead were women and children.

On Monday, the US State Department said its offer of assistance “stays on the table,” despite Iran’s claims that it could handle the humanitarian disaster on its own, the Agence France-Presse reported.

But US sanctions on Iran were making it difficult for much-needed cash to reach the country quickly, according to aid agencies, which have asked the US government to ease restrictions on financial transactions.

US-Iranian charities said sending food and medicine – which do not require an Iranian transactions regulations licence – was not practical given the urgency of the situation, the BBC reported.

"We need to send cash, and the current sanctions make transfer of money to Iran very difficult," said Dr Peyman Raoofi, the head of the Child Foundation in Los Angeles.