UNLIKE THE other camps in the international compound at Bam, no flag flutters above the United States base. Instead a modest Stars and Stripes is attached primly to the roof of a tent.
Swarms of journalists milled about but a distinctly apolitical spin is being put on a seminal moment: the first US government presence in Iran since Shah Reza Pahlavi was toppled in favour of Ayatollah Khomeini 25 years ago.
"I don't know anything about politics, I'm just here to try and save some people. I help people at home and now I want to help people here. I feel very sad for them and I want to do them some good," said Craig Luecke, wearing the dark blue uniform and black webbing of the Fairfax Virginia fire service.
Away from this unexpected symbol of detente between Iran and the US, there was another minor miracle yesterday, when an 80-year-old woman was dragged alive from the rubble, more than 120 hours after the quake.
"She was brought in just an hour ago by Red Crescent workers," said Francois- Regis de Salve-Villedieu, a doctor at a French government field hospital next to a ruined state hospital in Bam. She was not speaking but was in satisfactory condition and bore none of the usual visible signs of such an ordeal. "She may have been trapped in a cellar because she did not appear to be very dusty," he said.
The woman was one of a depressingly small number of survivors - five in the past two days - found in the flattened city, where the pre-dawn quake on Boxing Day caught people asleep and destroyed …