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Iran Press TV

Virus cases fall in 13 Iranian provinces but sanctions mar fight

Iran Press TV

Friday, 20 March 2020 8:40 AM

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says US sanctions against Iran have hampered the country's access to medicine and medical equipment amid the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

US sanctions are still the "main obstacle" to the country's effective fight against the coronavirus pandemic, Zarif told his Japanese counterpart Toshimitsu Moteg in a phone conversation on Friday.

The bans are obstructing Iran's access to medicine and medical equipment, he added.

The top diplomat demanded that the Japanese government increase its efforts to help remove Washington's unilateral and illegal sanctions against Iran.

Zarif also thanked the Japanese government and nation for assisting Tehran in its ongoing battle to stem the COVID-19.

Toshimitsu Moteg, for his part, highlighted the two nations' "friendly" ties, saying that Tokyo plans to donate Avigan, a drug used in Japan to treat new strains of influenza appeared to be effective in coronavirus patients, to Iran.

Death toll rises to 1,433 in Iran

Iran's deputy health minister Alireza Raisi said on Friday that the total number of infections had reached 19,644 in the country.

"With 149 new deaths in the past 24 hours, the death toll from the virus has reached 1,433. Unfortunately, we had 1,237 new cases since yesterday," Raisi said on state TV.

He also put the number of those so far recovered from the infection at 6,745.

The deputy minister further said that the provinces of Tehran, Isfahan, and Gilan have registered the highest number of cases of infection while 13 provinces have seen a big drop.

Recently, the Iranian foreign minister wrote a letter to the United Nations secretary-general, calling for the removal of US sanctions.

Despite the high scientific standing of the Iranian health apparatus and its commitment to the ongoing fight against the coronavirus outbreak, the complications created by US sanctions "have faced Iran's fight with the COVID-19 outbreak with serious impediments," Zarif said in his letter.

The US reinstated its sanctions against Iran in May 2018 after leaving a UN-endorsed nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries.

Tehran sued Washington at the International Court of Justice afterwards. The tribunal ruled that the US should lift its sanctions on humanitarian supplies.

The United States, which falsely claims that its "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran does not stop the flow of humanitarian goods, imposed new sanctions this week.

The Trump administration blacklisted five companies based in the United Arab Emirates, three in mainland China, three in Hong Kong and one in South Africa for trade in Iran's petrochemicals.

"Washington's increased pressure against Iran is a crime against humanity," Reuters quoted an unnamed Iranian official as saying. "All the world should help each other to overcome this disease."

Some analysts suggested the Trump administration should do more to speed the flow of humanitarian goods into Iran, though they saw little evidence to suggest this was in the offing, Reuters wrote.

"Our policy of maximum pressure on the regime continues," Brian Hook, the US Special Representative for Iranian Affairs, told reporters. "US sanctions are not preventing aid from getting to Iran," he claimed.

On Monday, China called on the United States to give Iran sanctions relief for humanitarian reasons but US officials, foreign diplomats and analysts saw no signs of this.

"America's sanctions are preventing Iran from getting necessary medicine and equipment to fight against this virus. They have to lift it," said dentist Arash Hosseini, 52, in Tehran.

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