Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a meeting of the Iranian government task force on the coronavirus, in Tehran, Iran March 21, 2020. Official Presidential website/Handout via REUTERS
DUBAI (Reuters) - The United States should lift sanctions if Washington wants to help Iran to contain the coronavirus outbreak, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday, adding that Iran had no intention of accepting Washington’s offer of humanitarian assistance.
“American leaders are lying ... If they want to help Iran, all they need to do is to lift sanctions .... Then we can deal with the coronavirus outbreak,” Rouhani said in a televised speech.
Iran is the Middle Eastern nation worst hit by coronavirus, with around 1,700 deaths, over 21,000 infected people and one person dying from the virus every 10 minutes, according to the health ministry.
Washington has offered humanitarian assistance to its longtime foe. But the country’s top authority Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday rejected the offer.
Tensions between the two countries have been running high since 2018, when U.S. President Donald Trump exited Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers and reimposed sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy.
Iranian authorities have blamed U.S. sanctions for hampering its efforts to curb the outbreak and Rouhani has urged Americans to call on their government to lift sanctions as Iran fights the coronavirus.
“U.S. is NOT listening, impeding global fight against #COVID19. The ONLY remedy: DEFY U.S. mass punishment. MORAL & PRAGMATIC imperative,” Tweeted Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday.
But the United States has sent Iran a blunt message: the spread of the virus will not save it from U.S. sanctions that are choking off its oil revenues and isolating its economy.
“You have blocked Iran’s oil exports, you have stopped Iran’s banking transactions... Your help offer is the biggest lie in the history,” Rouhani said.