Iran has plentiful forex for Persian year ahead says president

By bne IntelIiNews April 3, 2020

"Iran has no problem in providing foreign currency until the end of the [Persian] year [in March, 2021]," Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told an April 2 cabinet meeting, citing information he said came from the Iranian central bank’s governor.

"We have a good reserve of essential commodities for the next months and agriculture and trade ministers have given very promising reports for the situation during the coming months," Rouhani added.

Iran must deal with the severe economic ramifications of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic combined with the ongoing impact of heavy US sanctions, including sanctions that the Trump administration is attempting to use to drive the Islamic Republic’s lifeline exports of crude oil to zero.

Also at the cabinet meeting, Rouhani said that US sanctions have not hindered Iran's ability to fight its coronavirus outbreak, the worst in the Middle East and the seventh worst in the world, with 53,183 infections and 3,294 deaths officially recorded by the country of 83mn as of April 3.

"We did not face a problem due to cohesion, good management, skilled and professional medical staff, and all of these came together," Rouhani was quoted as saying.

Iran faced criticism for a slow initial response to the pandemic. Some observers saw its decision not to quarantine the city of Qom, where the Iranian coronavirus outbreak erupted in February, as a mistake and there is a lot of scepticism among analysts as to whether the official figures on coronavirus cases and fatalities are far too low compared to the reality. However, by March the World Health Organisation (WHO) was generally praising Iran for its efforts to get on top of its COVID-19 situation.

Former US vice president and Democratic Party presidential contender Joe Biden on April 2 joined those calling for US sanctions imposed on Iran to be eased to help the country tackle its virus outbreak.

"We should be the first to offer help to people who are hurting or in danger. That's who we are. That's who we've always been," he said.

Biden said the US, for instance, should issue licences to pharmaceutical and medical-device companies and form a dedicated channel for international banks to support Iran in its fight against COVID-19.

However, US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said on Twitter that Rouhani's latest comments on Iran’s response to the pandemic confirmed Washington's view that the sanctions were not hampering Iran in its coronavirus battle.

US President Donald Trump was on April 2 asked whether he would consider easing the sanctions amid the coronavirus outbreak. He responded to reporters that Tehran had not made a formal request. "They haven't asked us to do that," he said, adding that "If they want to meet, we'd love to do that."

To date, Iran’s leadership has steadfastly refused to countenance a meeting with Trump, arguing that prior to such an encounter the US would have to drop its “illegal” sanctions that amount to an “economic war”.

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