DUBAI: Iran has asked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for emergency funding to help it fight the coronavirus outbreak that has hit the Islamic Republic hard, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Thursday.
The escalating outbreak in Iran — the worst-affected country in the Middle East — has killed 429 people and infected 10,075. The outbreak has damaged Iranian businesses and is bound to hit its non-oil exports after many neighboring countries and trade partners shut their borders.
The IMF managing director, Kristalina Georgieva, “has stated that countries affected by #COVID19 (coronavirus) will be supported via Rapid Financial Instrument. Our Central Bank requested access to this facility immediately,” Zarif said in a tweet.
Iranian Central Bank chief Abdolnaser Hemmati wrote on his Instagram page that “in a letter addressed to the head of IMF, I have requested five billion US dollars from the RFI emergency fund to help our fight against the coronavirus.”
Iran’s economy was already battered by US sanctions that curbed oil and gas exports crucial for government revenues. A slowdown in economic activity caused by the virus outbreak and a sustained closure of its borders are expected to lead to a contraction this year, analysts have said.
IMF's @KGeorgieva has stated that countries affected by #COVID19 will be supported via Rapid Financial Instrument. Our Central Bank requested access to this facility immediately.
IMF/IMF Board should adhere to Fund's mandate, stand on right side of history & act responsibly.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) March 12, 2020
As Iran’s clerical rulers struggle to contain the coronavirus outbreak, Tehran has blamed the United States and its “maximum pressure” policy for restricting Iran’s ability to respond effectively to the virus.
In a letter to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Zarif repeated Iran’s demand for US sanctions to be lifted, Iranian media reported.
US officials have said that the sanctions do not target medicine for Iran and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month said the United States had offered to help Tehran face the outbreak. Iran dismissed the offer as ridiculous.
US President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from a multilateral nuclear agreement with Iran in 2018 and reimposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic.