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Iran’s Khamenei Dismisses US Virus Help, Citing Conspiracy Theory

Iran’s Khamenei Dismisses US Virus Help, Citing Conspiracy Theory

Sunday, 22 March, 2020 - 08:45
People shop at a market in Iran amid the coronavirus outbreak. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat

Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei dismissed on Sunday the United States’ offer to help Tehran it its fight against the coronavirus, citing an unfounded conspiracy theory that the virus could be man-made by America.


He made his comments as the Tehran announced that the virus has killed another 129 people, raising death toll to 1,685 amid 21,638 confirmed cases.


"Possibly your (offered) medicine is a way to spread the virus more," Khamenei said in a televised speech.


He also alleged without offering any evidence that the virus “is specifically built for Iran using the genetic data of Iranians which they have obtained through different means.”


“You might send people as doctors and therapists, maybe they would want to come here and see the effect of the poison they have produced in person," he said.


There is no scientific proof offered anywhere in the world to support his comments.


Khamenei, said Iran had the capability to overcome “any kind of crisis and challenges, including the coronavirus outbreak”.


Tensions have been running high between Iran and the United States since 2018, when US President Donald Trump exited Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers and reimposed sanctions that have crippled the country’s economy.


Frictions increased when Trump ordered a US drone strike that killed top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani on Jan. 3. Iran retaliated by hitting US targets in Iraq on Jan. 8.


Iranian hardliners have supported conspiracy theories in the past when it suited their interests. Following the Sept. 11 attacks, some publicly doubted al-Qaeda's role and state TV promoting the unfounded conspiracy theory that the Americans blew up the building themselves.


Former hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad similarly raised doubt about the Sept. 11 attack, calling it a “big lie.”


Meanwhile on Sunday, Iran imposed a two-week closure on major shopping malls and centers across the country to prevent spreading the virus. Pharmacies, supermarkets, groceries and bakeries will remain open.


Iran is one of the hardest-hit countries in the world by the new virus. Across the Middle East, Iran represents eight of 10 cases of the virus and those leaving the country have carried the virus to others.


For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus.


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