"I don't think this incident will change our relations with the United States," Khatami told a news conference on Tuesday in the capital of southeastern Kerman province where officials say up to 50,000 people may have been killed in Friday's quake.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell said in an interview with the Washington Post published on Tuesday Washington was open to restoring a dialogue with Iran after "encouraging" moves by the Islamic Republic in recent months. 

Powell referred to Iran's willingness to accept US aid for the earthquake relief effort, paving the way for the first US military planes to land in Iran in over 20 years. 

"All of those things taken together show, it seems to me, a
new attitude in Iran in dealing with these issues - not one of
total, open generosity. But they realise that the world is
watching and the world is prepared to take action," he told the Washington Post.

The US planes carried over the weekend doctors and tonnes of emergency aid for survivors.

Dialogue possibility

"There are things happening and therefore we should keep open the possibility of dialogue at an appropriate point in the
future," Powell said. 

"This (US aid) has got nothing to do with political issues. The problems in Iran-US relations are rooted in history." 

Muhammad Khatami, Iran president

But Khatami, who is viewed as a foreign policy moderate in Iran, played down the importance of the US assistance. 

"In incidents like this governments normally do not consider their differences," he said. "But this has got nothing to do with political issues. The problems in Iran-US relations are
rooted in history." 

"Nevertheless, I thank all...those who helped us and showed
sympathy despite our different viewpoints," Khatami said. 

Mistrust

Iran accepted US aid  provided
to  quake  survivors
 

Washington broke ties with Iran shortly after the 1979 Islamic revolution when radical students stormed the US embassy in Tehran and held 52 hostages for 444 days.

US President George Bush last year included Iran along with North Korea and Iraq under Saddam Hussein in an "axis of evil" developing nuclear and chemical weapons and supporting "terrorist" groups.

Khatami said for Iran to restore ties with Washington it would "have to see a change in its methods ... to create a kind of hole in the wall of mistrust between the two countries."

However, he pointed out that humanitarian aid from non-governmental organisations in the United States "shows there is no enmity between the people of Iran and the American nation."

"The world is a world of terror, violence and war," he said. Yet beyond all that a spirit of humanity and kindness is alive. Foreigners came (to Iran) during their holidays and festive
season and worked alongside our people. This should be lauded."