A proposal by the United States to send a humanitarian mission to Iran headed by Senator Elizabeth Dole, has been rejected by the Iranians.

Senator Dole is a former American Red Cross president.

State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said they had heard back 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.

As a result, they were not pursuing this further at the moment.

Last week's earthquake in the south east of Iran has left thousands of people homeless and in need of humanitarian aid.

Aid workers from the US are among the international teams helping with the relief effort.

US President George W Bush earlier said the temporary lifting of some US sanctions because of the earthquake did not signal a change in Washington's policy towards the country.

Mr Bush said he appreciated Iran's willingness to accept US humanitarian flights after the disaster.

But he told reporters that before relations with the US could be normalised, Iran must abandon its nuclear weapons programmes and hand over any al-Qaeda members that were in its jurisdiction.