(Reuters) – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani castigated Iran’s friends on Saturday for not standing up to the United States and ignoring U.S. sanctions during the coronavirus pandemic.
Iran, with over 380,000 registered cases and over 22,000 deaths from coronavirus, is one of the countries worst hit by the pandemic in the Middle East.
“Over the past months since the coronavirus arrived in our country… no one came to our help,” Rouhani said in remarks broadcast live on state television.
If the United States “had a bit of humanity and brain”, he said, it would have offered to “lift the sanctions for a year because of the coronavirus”.
But the United States “is far more heartless and evil than those things,” he added. Instead, it “imposed new sanctions and pressures on us over these past seven months of coronavirus”.
At the same time, “Not a single friendly country told us that in this time of coronavirus and hardship and for the sake of humanity ‘we will stand up to America'” and do business with Iran despite threats of U.S. retaliation, Rouhani said.
In March, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei rejected a U.S. offer to help Iran in its fight against the pandemic, and denounced U.S. leaders as “charlatans and liars”.
The sanctions are part of a U.S. effort to slash Iranian revenues after President Donald Trump withdrew in 2018 from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies are exempt from the sanctions but the trading bans have deterred several foreign banks from doing business with Iran, including financing humanitarian deals, provoking shortages of some drugs.
(Editing by Toby Chopra and James Drummond)