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EU Foreign Policy Chief Regrets US Blocking IMF Loan To Iran

EU Foreign Policy Chief, Josep Borrell, at a press conference after EU leaders' video conference on COVID-19 on March 17, 2020.
EU Foreign Policy Chief, Josep Borrell, at a press conference after EU leaders' video conference on COVID-19 on March 17, 2020.

The EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell on Wednesday said he regrets that the United States has blocked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) from assisting Iran in its fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Borrell also expressed regret that the United States has refused European Union's call to ease its sanctions on Iran and allow help to the most affected country in the Middle East.

"We supported first to soften the sanctions and second, the request by Iran to the International Monetary Fund for financial help," Borrell told reporters after a video conference of EU foreign ministers on Wednesday.

Iran's Central Bank applied to the IMF on March 12 for an emergency $5 billion loan to combat coronavirus. It was the first time since 1962 that Iran asked the international organization for emergency funding.

"I regret that the Americans are, at this stage, opposing the International Monetary Fund from taking this decision. From a humanitarian point of view, this request should have been accepted," he said.

Iran was the second country in the world to have a massive coronavirus outbreak. Since February when the first cases emerged, more than 5,300 people have died in the country of COVID-19. The pandemic and closure of businesses has deepened Iran's sanctions-hit and foreign currency-starved government even further.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani has criticized the United States for preventing the payment of the IMF loan and said the Instex mechanism set up by the European powers to make humanitarian trade with Iran possible does not fulfill Iran's needs.​

Since the mechanism was created a year ago only one transaction through Instex has been completed so far due to technicalities arising from the need to ensure U.S. sanctions are not broken.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have in recent weeks made it clear that the United States will not ease its "maximum pressure campaign" against Iran. The pressure is applied through sanctions that the United States re-imposed in 2018 by withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear agreement between six world powers and Iran.

Trump has offered some humanitarian assistance to Iran, but Iranian officials have rejected the offer, saying Washington should instead lift the sanctions, which Rouhani on April 8 equated to “economic and medical terrorism.”