Virus-hit Iran demands US be held to account for 'cruel' sanctions

Tehran (AFP) –


Iran called Thursday for the US to be held accountable for "cruel" sanctions that have hampered its efforts to fight a coronavirus outbreak that it said claimed another 90 lives.

The Islamic republic has been struggling to contain the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease since revealing its first cases more than two months ago.

It accuses its arch enemy the United States of making the crisis worse through sanctions imposed unilaterally since Washington pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal in 2018.

The latest fatalities given by the health ministry for the past 24 hours took the overall death toll in Iran from the coronavirus to 5,481.

"Today, the coronavirus has spread not only in Iran but in almost all countries, and it requires serious effort and collective action to deal with it," said Iran's deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi.

"In addition to fighting the virus, Iran faces illegal and inhuman American sanctions, doubling the pressure on the Iranian people," he was quoted as saying in a ministry statement.

"It is the right of the Iranian people to have access to their financial resources to fight the disease and to counter its economic consequences," said Araghchi.

"The United States' cruel and unilateral sanctions against Iran constitute a clear violation of Security Council Resolution 2231, and the United States must therefore be held accountable by the international community," he added.

Medicines and medical equipment are technically exempt from the US sanctions but purchases are frequently blocked by the unwillingness of banks to process purchases for fear of incurring heavy US penalties.

Iran's coronavirus outbreak, which first emerged in the Shiite holy city of Qom on February 19, is one of the deadliest in the world.

Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour announced 1,030 new cases of coronavirus infection on Thursday, taking the country's total to 87,026.

Quoted by state media, he called for caution despite what he described as the "relative stability" and "gradual decline in new cases".

"We certainly need to put personal and public health advice, traffic reduction and the cancellation of any unnecessary travel on the agenda."