Coronavirus: Iran president credits foreign ministry for campaign to lift sanctions

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani praised Wednesday a campaign calling for US sanctions against the Islamic Republic to be lifted amid the coronavirus pandemic, saying that the foreign ministry was the entity that launched it.

The campaign was launched by the Washington-based NGO National Iranian American Council (NIAC) and a group of Iranian Americans – but Rouhani credited his foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

“The foreign ministry has launched a very good movement to influence public opinion to say no to sanctions,” President Rouhani said on Wednesday.

“The goal is to release our frozen funds in various countries, and good steps are being taken in this regard,” Rouhani added.

NIAC has been repeatedly accused of lobbying on behalf of the Iranian regime, working against the interests of the Iranian diaspora in the US whom it claims to represent, and coordinating with Zarif.

Also read: Iran campaign for sanctions relief seeks to cover up negligence over coronavirus

Coronavirus has killed 2,378 and infected at least 32,332 in Iran as of Friday.

Nine Members of Congress, including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Representative Ilhan Omar, Senator Bernie Sanders, and Senator Elizabeth Warren have also signed a letter asking President Donald Trump’s administration to lift sanctions on Iran as the country grapples with the pandemic.

Using coronavirus to lift sanctions

Iranian Americans opposing the Islamic Republic have responded by pointing out that sanctions against the regime do not target import of humanitarian aid into Iran, and that sanctions relief will only strengthen the regime, rather than help ordinary Iranians.

“The Islamic Republic is using the deaths from coronavirus as a pretext to break sanctions and get cash – not medicine – to send to Hamas, Hezbollah, and Bashar al-Assad,” US-based Iranian activist and journalist Masih Alinejad tweeted.

Iranian American activist Reza Behrouz posted a video on Twitter explaining why he opposes easing sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

“Sanctions have had zero role in the outbreak of COVID-19 in Iran ... the outbreak was entirely a consequence of the regime’s malign incompetence and criminal negligence,” Behrouz said.

High ranking Iranian officials, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and head of the IRGC Hossein Salami have recently said that they will not accept any US help to combat coronavirus.

Iran also expelled on Tuesday a team of doctors from international humanitarian group Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), who came to the country to treat coronavirus patients, and rejected their plan to set up a field hospital in Isfahan, one of the country’s worst-hit provinces.

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