Brussels, March 23, 2020 (AFP) -
The EU on Monday urged the international community to send humanitarian aid to Iran to help its coronavirus fight, arguing that such steps would not breach US sanctions.
The bloc is preparing to send 20 million euros' ($21.5 million) worth of humanitarian aid to Iran, where new coronavirus has killed more than 1,800 people, making it one of the countries hit hardest by the pandemic.
Josep Borrell, the EU's chief diplomat, said Brussels would support requests for help made by Iran and Venezuela -- also heavily sanctioned -- to the International Monetary Fund.
"We are going to support this request because these countries are in a very difficult situation mainly due to the US sanctions that prevent them from having income by selling their oil," Borrell said after talks with EU foreign ministers.
Tehran and Caracas are both under swingeing US sanctions aimed at starving their regimes of income, but Borrell said that shipments of food, medicine and medical equipment should not be affected.
"This has to be reaffirmed because many believe that if they participate in this kind of humanitarian trade they can be sanctioned," he said.
"This is not the case but it has to be reaffirmed in order for everybody to understand that they can participate in this kind of humanitarian help."
The EU and US have been at loggerheads over Iran since President Donald Trump abruptly withdrew from the Iranian nuclear deal in 2018 and reimposed sanctions.
European countries have battled to save the accord, arguing it is the best way to prevent Tehran acquiring the bomb.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signalled on Twitter that Washington was unreceptive to the Islamic republic's first-ever request for a loan from the IMF, where America effectively holds a veto.
He accused the regime of funding "terror abroad" and accused the Iranian leadership of lying about the pandemic, after Tehran rejected a US offer of aid.