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U.S. Rejects Iran's Offer of 20M Barrels

Iran offered to send the United States 20 million barrels of crude oil in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (search) if Washington waived trade sanctions, but a State Department official said Wednesday that offer was rejected.

In a gesture that mirrors American aid offers after a devastating 2003 earthquake in Iran (search), Tehran's envoy to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (search) said his government would ship up to 20 million barrels of oil, state radio reported late Tuesday.

"If U.S. sanctions are lifted, Iran is prepared to send that quantity of oil to America," the radio quoted Hossein Kazempour as saying.

But in Washington, the State Department's executive secretary, Harry K. Thomas Jr., said the offer was rejected because it was conditional.

Last week, the Iranian Foreign Ministry offered to send relief supplies to the American Red Cross; Iranian newspapers reported that no response had been received.

Iran's offers reciprocates the goodwill that the United States displayed after an earthquake flattened the southeastern Iranian city of Bam (search) in 2003, killing more than 26,000 people. The United States flew in emergency supplies, which were gratefully unloaded at an Iranian airport.

The Bam gesture did not, however, lead to an improvement in relations.

The United States and Iran have had no diplomatic relations since militants stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held its occupants hostage in 1979. Washington then imposed a range of sanctions on Iran.

The United States accuses Iran of sponsoring terrorism and secretly trying to build nuclear bombs — charges that Iran denies.

Hurricane Katrina has severely disrupted U.S. oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and reduced the country's refining capacity by more than 10 percent.

Thomas said the United States has accepted offers of nearly $1 billion in assistance from some 95 countries after Hurricane Katrina.

Cuba offered to send medical personnel. Washington and Havana do not have diplomatic relations, and the United States has had trade sanctions on Cuba since 1963.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said earlier that the offer was being considered.