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Pope sympathizes with Iran amid coronavirus, pontificates US over sanctions

The Vatican has expressed sympathy with the Iranian people and talked to the US over draconian sanctions on Tehran amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Vatican’s secretary of state Cardinal Pietro Parolin talked to US officials following a letter by head of Iran’s Islamic Seminaries Alireza Arafi toleader of the Roman Catholic Church Pope Francis.

In his letter circulated last week, Arafi expressed Iran’s sympathy over the victims of COVID-19 from “all religions and nations” and urged the “cooperation of all religious centers” to counter the pandemic.

In the Vatican’s response to Arafi’s message, Cardinal Parolin wrote that “upon being informed of the details of the letter”, the Pope asked the cardinal to express “his spiritual sympathy with the Iranian people” and all victims of the disease on his behalf.

The Vatican’s letter added that Arifi had called on the Pope to act against the US sanctions targeting the Iranian people amid the pandemic.

Acting upon such details and such an understanding, the Papacy contacted the United States’ ambassador to the UN, Kelly Craft, and informed them of the concerns of Iranian officials, urging attention to the matter, the letter read.

The letter, however, stopped short of condemning Washington’s criminal sanctions against the Iranian people as the country grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Various international leaders, figures and groups have denounced Washington’s sanctions for hampering Iran’s coronavirus fight.

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The sanctions, imposed on the country after Washington withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in 2018, target much-need humanitarian aid and related finances from reaching the country.

The bans come despite an International Court of Justice’s ruling banning Washington’s aid-related sanctions in 2018.

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According to the latest numbers released by Iran’s Health Ministry on Saturday, 70,029 Iranians have contracted the disease, 4,357 of which have lost their lives. 41,947 people have also recovered.

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With the COVID-19 pandemic pushing world governments to the edge in their attempts to contain the deadly disease, stark differences have emerged in how the United States – the world’s largest economy – and Iran – under crippling sanctions – have managed the crisis.

The World Health Organization has on numerous accounts praised Iran’s efforts against the outbreak despite widespread US sanctions banning supplies from reaching the country.

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Other countries have also praised Iran for its assistance amid the pandemic.

Afghanistan’s mission to Tehran lauded Iran for providing free health services to any Afghan immigrant who may fall ill to the COVID-19 disease, ISNA hews agency reported on Saturday.

Iran has hosted millions of Afghans who have made a living for more than four decades and been provided with free education for their children and other amenities by the Islamic Republic.

Iran has also been lauded by China’s President Xi Jinping as a “strategic partner” in curbing the coronavirus outbreak.

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Tehran sent several aid shipments to China during the height of the coronavirus outbreak in the Asian country.

The US, instead, has been piling on its unilateral sanctions against countries. Washington has also been accused by its own allies of using “wild west” methods to divert and obtain coronavirus-related aid supplies ordered by other countries.

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On Saturday, the US became the first country to record more than 2,000 coronavirus deaths in the 24 hours.

The country has currently confirmed more than half a million COVID-19 cases and close to 20,000 deaths resulting from the disease. New York alone has more cases than any other country in the world.

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