Wednesday, 25 March 2020

US Officials Accuse Iran of Covering Up Extent of Coronavirus Outbreak, Stealing Medical Funds

The State Department on Monday accused Iran’s leadership of lying to its people about the coronavirus outbreak and covering up information, thus putting people worldwide at risk.
In a statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listed the ways the Iranian authorities have contributed to the global spread of COVID-19, including by lying to the public about the true scale of the crisis in the country and continuing flights to China as the virus was spreading.
“The regime continues to lie to the Iranian people and the world about the number of cases and deaths, which are unfortunately far higher than the regime admits,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo also accused the Iranian regime of stealing money intended for medical supplies and hoarding equipment such as masks and gloves to sell on the black market.
The State Department’s Monday statement is just the latest in the feud between Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the Trump administration regarding who is to blame for the coronavirus’ spread in Iran. 
In televised comments on Sunday, Khamenei said the United States’ offer to send aid to Iran could not be trusted because America “may” have created the coronavirus, The Washington Post reported.
“I do not know how real this accusation is, but when it exists, what wise man would trust you to bring them medication?” Khamenei said.
“Possibly your medicine is a way to spread the virus more.”
“You might send people as doctors and therapists, and maybe they would want to come here and see the effect of the poison they have produced in person,” he added.
He also said that any help should be spent on the United States itself because of its failures to stop the spread in the country.
“You have shortages yourself,” he said. “Statements by American officials … are explicitly saying they have major shortages, both in terms of preventive equipment and also medicine.”
State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said Khamenei’s “conspiracy theories … are harmful, irresponsible, and 100% false.”
“If the so-called Supreme Leader were a true leader, he’d return the billions in his tax-free hedge fund back to the Iranian people to deal with the virus outbreak,” she tweeted.
Conspiracy theories about the peddled by @khamenei_ir are harmful, irresponsible, and 100% false. If the so-called Supreme Leader were a true leader, he’d return the billions in his tax-free hedge fund back to the Iranian people to deal with the virus outbreak.
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Iran has also blamed sanctions imposed by the Trump administration for the difficulties it is facing in confronting the virus.
“If they want to help Iran, all they need to do is to lift sanctions,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised speech Monday. “Then we can deal with the coronavirus.”
Pompeo countered that by saying the sanctions do not target imports of food, medicine and medical equipment.

“Iranian documents show their health companies have been able to import testing kits without obstacle from U.S. sanctions since January,” he said.

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