Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-California, in a letter has urged President Donald Trump not to block Iran's access to a $5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help fight the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis in the country.
“I am disappointed to see reports that your administration intends to block Iran from receiving $5 billion in humanitarian aid from the IMF to combat the coronavirus pandemic,” Senator Feinstein wrote in her letter to the President of the United States.
“Providing these funds to Iran would help it respond more effectively to the disease and mitigate the risk of further destabilization in the region,” she added.
For the first time since 1962, Iran applied for emergency IMF funding in March to help it fight the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Washington has indicated it will block IMF funding for Iran.
The epidemic has further damaged Iran's economy which was already battered by U.S. sanctions that were reimposed in 2018 after the U.S. withdrew from a landmark deal between Tehran and world powers to curb the country's nuclear program.
Tehran, as well as several countries, the United Nations, some U.S. lawmakers, and human rights groups have urged the United States to ease the sanctions to help Iran respond more effectively to the virus.
"We are a member of the IMF... There should be no discrimination in giving loans," President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised cabinet meeting on April 8.
IMF's managing director, Kristalina Georgieva, has stated that countries affected by COVID19 will be supported via Rapid Financial Instrument (RFI).
Trump has offered humanitarian assistance to Iran, but Iranian officials have rejected the offer, saying Washington should instead lift the sanctions, which on April 8 Rouhani dubbed as “economic and medical terrorism.”
Medicines and medical equipment are technically exempt from the U.S. sanctions, but purchases are frequently blocked by the unwillingness of banks to process transactions for fear of incurring large penalties in the United States.
The Trump administration insists that Iran simply wants the sanctions lifted, otherwise it can obtain humanitarian supplies by using money it already has.
In one of the few instances of aid for the first time on March 31 Britain, France, and Germany used INSTEX, a mechanism set up more than a year ago to allow legitimate humanitarian trade with Iran, to send medical supplies to Iran in a way that would not violate the sanctions.