DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran will never ask the United States for help in the fight against the new coronavirus, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Monday.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has rejected offers from Washington for humanitarian assistance to Iran, the Middle Eastern country so far most affected by the coronavirus, with 3,603 deaths and 58,226 people infected.
“Iran has never asked and will not ask America to help Tehran in its fight against the outbreak … But America should lift all its illegal unilateral sanctions on Iran,” Mousavi said in a televised news conference.
Tensions between the two countries have been running high since 2018, when US President Donald Trump quit a 2015 agreement that lifted sanctions on Iran in return for curbs to its nuclear program. Washington reimposed sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy.
Iranian authorities say US sanctions have hampered their efforts to curb the outbreak, urging other countries and the United Nations to call on the United States to lift them.
“They [the US] are trying to force Tehran to accept negotiations with America,” Mousavi said.
Trump says the nuclear deal was not strong enough and wants to apply “maximum pressure” on Iran to accept tougher curbs to its nuclear program, halt its ballistic missile work and end its support for proxy forces in the Middle East. Iran has long said it will not negotiate unless Washington lifts sanctions.
Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by David Goodman
Image: Volunteers from Basij forces wearing protective suits and face masks spray disinfectant in the streets, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) fears, in Tehran, Iran April 3, 2020. (WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Ali Khara via REUTERS)