SWITZERLAND, MARCH 06 – Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has dismissed a US offer to help the Islamic republic fight its coronavirus outbreak, charging that “vicious” American sanctions are depriving the country of medicine.
Iran has scrambled to halt the rapid spread of the virus that has claimed 92 lives out of 2,922 confirmed infections in the past two weeks.
It has shut schools and universities, suspended major cultural and sporting events, and cut back on work hours.
“Those who have deprived the people of even medicine and food through sanctions, who have done the most vicious things… they appear with a mask of sympathy and say that we want to help the nation of Iran,” Rouhani said, in a clear reference to the United States.
US President Donald Trump had said Saturday he was ready to aid Iran with the virus outbreak if the Islamic republic asked for assistance.
“Our people know well that you are lying,” Rouhani said in response, speaking at the weekly meeting of his cabinet in remarks aired on state television.
Washington pulled out of a landmark nuclear deal and reimposed crippling sanctions on Tehran in 2018.
Humanitarian goods, especially medicine and medical equipment, are technically exempt.
But international purchases of such supplies are forestalled by banks wary of conducting any business with Iran for fear of falling foul of the US sanctions.
Rouhani said the US must first lift sanctions blocking medicine purchases to prove its honest intent to help.
“This is the first step… to free banking relations for purchasing medicine, transferring medicine and shipping medicine and food,” he said.