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Local Iranian-Americans Organize Relief Effort For Home Country

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RALEIGH, N.C. — More than 150,000 pounds of medical supplies were on their way to Iran Saturday. The Bush administration also is dispatching teams of about 200 search-and-rescue and medical experts from Fairfax County, Va., Los Angeles and Boston.

Government officials said the medical supplies include blood, food and other humanitarian rations. The effort is being coordinated by the White House, State Department and the Pentagon, which is supplying at least a half-dozen cargo planes.

The airlift could mark a significant step forward in relations with Iran, which President George W. Bush branded part of an "axis of evil" for allegedly seeking weapons of mass destruction.

Meanwhile, in the wake of Friday's earthquake in Iran that killed at least 5,000 people, local Iranian-Americans are rushing to the rescue of their home country. The man organizing the local relief effort said they had to get involved because just watching the images is unbearable.

The deadly earthquake that leveled the Iranian city of Bam shook a doctor thousands of miles away in Raleigh.

"What a devastation it was," said Dr. Logham Zaiim.

Dr. Zaiim grew up in a city just 150 miles from Bam. Most of his family still lives in that area.

"My sister's father-in-law was stuck under the rubble, and he was pulled out," Dr. Zaiim said. "Fortunately, he's fine."

So is the rest of Zaiim's family. But he said seeing the destruction and pain in his home country is heartbreaking.

"Instead of feeling sad, feeling depressed about this to the point where feel immobilized, I might as well do something," he said.

So he set up a fund and called on friends to help start a relief project.

Iranian organizations from Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Greensboro are working together on this project. In 1997, they raised about $22,000 to help victims of an earthquake in their home country. This time, they hope to double that amount.

"The area that is most affected, unfortunately, is also very poor," Dr. Zaiim said.

Donations are coming in quickly. Dr. Zaiim said he is overwhelmed by the community's support.

"Despite political differences between the countries, that compassion and love does not know a boundary," he said.

Dr. Zaiim is not just asking for money. He also is asking for prayers. He knows it will take lots of both to rebuild the city.

Anyone who wants to help can make a donation to the Iranian Cultural Society fund at any Centura Bank.

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