Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has offered his condolences to his Iranian counterpart over two devastating earthquakes that rocked Iran's northwestern province of East Azarbaijan. In a telephone conversation with Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday, Chavez expressed the Venezuelan government and nation’s readiness to send humanitarian aid to quake-stricken people.
The Iranian and Venezuelan presidents also stressed the importance of expanding mutual relations and exchanged views on leading regional developments.Ahmadinejad said the Iranian and Venezuelan nations enjoy friendly ties and would stand by each other. Chavez, for his part, said Caracas supports Iran's stance on the necessity to establish peace across the world, particularly in the Middle East region, and to restore rights of nations. On Saturday, a 6.4-magnitude earthquake rocked the city of Ahar, near the provincial capital of Tabriz, at 15:53 local time (1123 GMT). The quake struck 60 kilometers northeast of Tabriz at a depth of 9.9 kilometers. Another quake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale jolted Varzaqan and Haris districts, which are located near Ahar, 11 minutes later at a similar depth. The epicenter of the quake was 49 kilometers northeast of Tabriz. Twelve villages in Varzaqan were leveled by the earthquake and about 60 others were partially destroyed. Thousands of people were forced to remain outdoors as at least 20 aftershocks rocked the area. Iran's Health Minister Marzieh Vahid-Dastjerdi said on Monday that the death toll from the two powerful earthquakes in East Azarbaijan Province had risen to 306, with 3,037 people injured. Thousands of tents have already been set up to shelter those displaced by the quakes. SF/MA