Iranian military engineers said on Friday they had uncovered violations of building regulations in the earthquake-devastated city of Bam and that those responsible would be prosecuted.
About 90 percent of the mostly mud-brick buildings in the ancient Silk Road city collapsed in last Friday's quake, killing at least 30,000 people in one of the world's worst natural disasters in recent decades.
"We have seen some violations and they are being reported to the Justice Department," Hamid Eskander, head of a fact-finding team of about 100 engineers from Iran's Revolutionary Guards, said.
"People we suspect of not doing their job properly will be contacted and prosecuted," said Eskandar, an earthquake specialist.
"There are a good number of cases where there were violations in terms of construction practices, engineering practices, and perhaps even faulty inspections."
Quake-prone Iran has tightened building regulations in recent years, but the measures have been widely ignored, officials and engineers have said.
Even modern state buildings collapsed in the quake, which measured 6.8 on the Richter scale.
The mass collapse of Bam's buildings has been blamed for the high toll. Quakes of similar force in other countries have caused far fewer deaths.
"There are a good number of cases of violations in terms of construction practices, engineering practices, and even faulty inspections. People we suspect of not doing their job properly will be prosecuted "
Head of fact-finding team
Iran has vowed to prosecute anyone who violated building regulations, and Eskandar said the Justice Department had set up a special unit to deal with the issue.
A week after the pre-dawn quake struck while many of Bam's residents were still sleeping, government officials did not have a final toll but said it may reach 50,000.
International and Iranian aid programmes gathered momentum, but survivors still faced misery and uncertainty as they struggled to rebuild their lives.
Camps offering better shelter than the flimsy cloth tents handed out in the immediate aftermath of the quake began to take shape around Bam, some 1,000 km southeast of Tehran.
Aid workers said the camps would eventually house some 40,000 to 60,000 homeless.
UN assessment team
The United Nations said on Friday it was sending an assessment team to Bam in preparation for an emergency global appeal for relief funds to be launched next week.
Iranian officials hinted on Thursday Washington's dispatch of relief workers and supplies to help quake victims may have eased decades of mistrust between the two countries.
But on Friday, the United States said Iran had declined a US offer to send a new humanitarian mission led by Senator Elizabeth Dole, a former head of the American Red Cross.
"We have heard back today from the Iranians that given the current situation in Bam and all that is going on there now, it would be preferable to hold such a visit in abeyance," US State Department spokesman Adam Ereli told reporters.