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Iranian Officials Consider Moving Capital
January 5, 2004

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After the devastation of last month’s earthquake, officials in Iran are considering moving the country’s capital from Tehran.

On December 26, 2003, a quake that measured 6.3 on the Richter scale struck near Bam, in the southeast part of the country. The death toll has exceeded 30,000. A huge majority of the city was flattened, including buildings that had stood for 2,500 years. International relief workers have pulled many people from the rubble, including a 97-year-old woman, but many more died in the resulting aftershocks.

The concern about Tehran is that the 640-square-mile city sits atop three major fault lines. The area surrounding the city is predicted to have a major earthquake every 150 years. The last one to hit the area struck in 1830, so the next big one is long overdue. The city, which was just a village in 1830, is now home to 12 million people. Numerous smaller quakes jolt the city yearly already. Estimates of the devastation of a quake the size of the one that hit Bam predict that 700,000 people would be killed.

The proposal to move the capital is not a new one. Such an idea has been debated on and off since 1991. Hassan Rowhani, head of the Supreme National Security Council, said the group would resume talks on the matter very soon. Estimates of the cost of moving the government run in the billions of dollars. Still, some officials insist that it is the right thing to do, given the devastation seen recently in Bam. Opponents of the move say that any money that would be spent on such a move should be spent instead of making the existing buildings in Tehran earthquake-resistant.

One proposal is to move the capital to Isfahan, which was the country's capital in the late 16th century under monarch Shah Abbas the Great. The capital was moved to Tehran in 1788.

Meanwhile, the last teams of relief workers from specific countries left Iran on January 5. Efforts to treat survivors, find others, and rebuild the city will now be left to the United Nations, to international relief organizations like the Red Cross, and to Iran itself.

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