World Bulletin / News Desk
Rescue workers recovered more bodies three days after two powerful earthquakes struck northwest Iran, leaving more than 300 dead, but officials played down reports the number of casualties could still sharply increase.
The quakes, with magnitudes of 6.4 and 6.3, struck East Azerbaijan province on Saturday afternoon, flattening villages and injuring thousands of people around the towns of Ahar, Varzaghan, and Harees, near the provincial capital Tabriz.
A search team using sniffer dogs pulled out the body of a young woman in the village of Sorkhgav and were close to finding others, Fars new agency reported.
Another report, by Iran's Labour news agency, spoke of hundreds of villages having suffered severe damage, raising fears the number of dead could mount sharply as rescuers arrive in previously inaccessible areas.
But officials dismissed the estimates of a significant rise in fatalities, saying the eventual figure may be lower than already given.
"Many figures are based on speculation and have not been documented," provincial coroner Behram Samadi Rad said. "We cannot give a precise figure of the number of dead but we believe it will be under 300."
In Tehran, Karaj and Qom, thousands visited centres late into the night to donate blood, Press TV reported, including Iran's Olympic gold medal-winning weightlifter, Behdad Salimi.
"I truly feel terrible for the people of East Azerbaijan. I want to do what I can to help them. The most important thing is to donate blood because of the shortage," he said.
State television has showed extensive footage of air drops and an officials handing out food rations and tents, following severe criticism the media ignored the national disaster and continued to broadcast normal schedules.
After visiting the afflicted area on Monday, Vice-President Mohammad Reza Rahimi announced emergency funds for the relief effort and appeared to indicate the government had not reacted quickly enough.
"In these conditions, any criticism the people have of us is acceptable and we must all work as hard aspossible for their sake," Mehr news reported him as saying.
Iran's government faced criticism over its response to two earthquakes. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's trip to Saudi Arabia exposed him to barbs that he was not showing empathy with the disaster victims.
Meanwhile, more than 20 minor aftershocks added to torment of many who had lost their homes - some their loved ones - and were living in makeshift camps.
Brigadier-General John Shapland, chief defence attache for the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, raised the idea of extending Israel's anti-missile umbrella in comments to a security conference in the city
South Africa will hold general elections on May 7, new political players are expected to make gains
The planned bridge is expected to be operational within 48 months at a cost of $728 million.
Maher, Adel and Douma had been among the young activists who spearheaded Egypt's January 2011 revolution, which ended autocratic president Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule
In late January, al-Bashir presented his government partners with a proposed reform plan
Refat Chubarov asks for U.S. cooperation amid 'humanitarian and social catastrophe' in Ukraine
Khodorkovsky told university students in Kiev that giving the region the kind of autonomy from Ukraine that Scotland has inside the British state could ease Crimean demands for union with Russia
Nazarbayev, whose Central Asian state has the second largest post-Soviet economy, is a close ally of Putin and backs his plan for integration of old Soviet republics
Russian forces consolidated their hold on Ukraine's Crimea peninsula on Monday, taking over a military hospital and a missile base as officials geared up for a referendum on the region's future
Swiss officials widened their measures to include Yanukovich's son, also called Viktor, and Oleksii Azarov, son of the former prime minister, Mykola Azarov
Rebel forces loyal to Machar have reportedly ransacked and burned the main hospital in Duk County in Jonglei State
Qurei added that Israel would seek to divide the holy site as it did the Ibrahimi Mosque in Al-Khalil (Hebron).
The government said the navy and pro-government militias had dispatched boats to stop the tanker from getting out. The rebels said any attack on the vessel would be "a declaration of war
German Foreign Minister is to visit three Baltic EU members Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania on Tuesday to discuss recent developments in Crimea and possible sanctions against Russia.
The march passed through the city's main streets to the memorial of John Garang, widely considered a founding father of the nascent nation.
The military wing of Palestinian resistance group Hamas vowed to take action against whoever threatened Hamas