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Iran Coronavirus Death Toll Climbs as Rouhani Presses for Sanctions Relief

Iran Coronavirus Death Toll Climbs as Rouhani Presses for Sanctions Relief

Wednesday, 1 April, 2020 - 10:15
A traffic police officer wears a protective face mask and gloves, amid fear of coronavirus, as he walks in Tehran, Iran March 26, 2020. (Reuters)

Iran’s death toll from the coronavirus crossed the 3,000 mark as President Hassan Rouhani called for sanctions relief from the United States.


Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said the death toll now stood at 3,036. He said 2,987 new cases brought the total to 47,593. He said 15,473 of those hospitalized had recovered.


Rouhani claimed that with the advent of the coronavirus, the United States had missed a “historic” opportunity to lift sanctions on his country, though the penalties had not hampered its fight against the infection.


Iran has been urging the international community to lift sanctions, and is seeking a $5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund for the first time in decades.


On Tuesday, U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo raised the possibility that Washington might consider easing sanctions on Iran and other nations to help fight the epidemic, but gave no concrete sign it plans to do so.


"The United States lost the best opportunity to lift sanctions," Rouhani said in a televised cabinet meeting. "It was a great opportunity for Americans to apologize ... and to lift the unjust and unfair sanctions on Iran."


Friction between Tehran and Washington has increased since 2018, when US President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six nations and re-imposed sanctions, crippling Iran's economy.


Trump has adopted a "maximum pressure" policy on Iran aimed at persuading Tehran to negotiate a broader deal that further constrains its nuclear program, limits its missile program and curbs its use of proxy forces in Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.


Washington has offered humanitarian assistance to its longtime foe. But supreme leader Ali Khamenei has rejected the offer.


Although Iranian authorities have said US sanctions had hindered its efforts to curb the outbreak, Rouhani said: "The sanctions have failed to hamper our efforts to fight against the coronavirus outbreak."


"We are almost self-sufficient in producing all necessary equipment to fight the coronavirus. We have been much more successful than many other countries in the fight against this disease," Rouhani said.


In the first transaction conducted under a trade mechanism set up to barter humanitarian goods and food after Washington's withdrawal from the nuclear deal, Germany said on Tuesday that France, Germany and Britain had exported medical goods to Iran.


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