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Rouhani: US cutting WHO funding hampers global fight against pandemic

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani says a recent decision by the administration of US President Donald Trump to stop funding the World Health Organization (WHO) at a time that the world body is fighting a pandemic of new coronavirus hampers global efforts to eradicate the deadly virus.

“At a time that the coronavirus has turned into a common threat to international security and public health and the WHO is on the forefront of the global fight against the coronavirus threat, undermining the WHO amounts to weakening the joint global fight against the coronavirus, which is an ill-timed and unjustifiable measure,” Iran’s president said while addressing a virtual meeting of the leaders of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Contact Group on Monday.

Rouhani added, “The hasty and irresponsible measure taken by the US administration to deprive the WHO of necessary funds must be considered another strategic mistake by this administration, which challenges the collective global fight against coronavirus.”

US President Trump on April 14 halted funding to the WHO, accusing the international body of mishandling the deadly flu-like pathogen. 

“Today I’m instructing my administration to halt funding of the World Health Organization while a review is conducted to assess the World Health Organization’s role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus,” Trump said in a news briefing in Washington.

In another virulent attack on the UN health agency, the US president claimed the WHO had failed to disclose or respond to “credible” information in December that suggested the virus could be spread through human-to-human transmission.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus expressed regret over the US president’s decision to cut funding and said, “This is a time for all of us to be united in our common struggle against a common threat. When we are divided, the coronavirus exploits the cracks between us.”

He also reiterated that the UN body is reviewing the possible impacts of the US president’s decision, adding that the organization would work with its partners “to fill any financial gaps” and to ensure its activities will continue uninterrupted.

In another part of his speech, Iran’s president touched on the unjust sanctions imposed on the Iranian nation by the US and their impacts on the nation’s fight against coronavirus, saying, “For many years and through unilateral and illegal sanctions, the United States has not only deprived the Iranian nation of its rights, but its measures have also posed a major threat to multilateralism and international cooperation.”

Rouhani noted that Iran, like all other countries, has been trying in the past few months to meet its medical needs, including medicine and equipment, amid the deadly virus pandemic, but “due to the illegal and unilateral sanctions imposed by the United States, companies producing such items cannot provide Iran with such products in due time.”

It takes additional time and sometimes it is even impossible for Iran to meet its medical needs due to the US imposition of sanctions in violation of human rights principles, he said, adding that the move has also hampered the country’s plans to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.

“The global experience of the fight against COVID-19 showed … it is time that exerting pressure and posing threats, fostering terrorism, and mounting pressure on nations through economic terrorism and military threats be replaced with bilateral, multilateral and international cooperation to battle real and common threats,” Rouhani said.

Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the world, the Islamic Republic has been in cooperation with the WHO and devised a strategic national plan based on the International Health Regulations (IHR), Rouhani said, adding that Iran has also been cooperating with other countries to battle the virus.

“As a result of such measures, the Islamic Republic of Iran has so far succeeded in effectively preventing the virus outbreak in many cities and regions in the country,” Rouhani said.

Iran’s president noted that the country’s efforts to fight and control coronavirus have been evaluated in certain cases as even beyond and above international standards, saying, “The Islamic Republic of Iran’s purposeful strategies to battle the virus outbreak are still continuing in the country and the region.”

The novel virus that can cause a potentially fatal respiratory infection called COVID-19 has killed more than 249,000 people worldwide, including 6,200-plus in Iran. It first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.

Iran, one of the Middle Eastern countries hardest hit by the pandemic, has been doing its utmost to contain the respiratory disease despite the hardships caused by the US sanctions.

The Trump’s administration has not only defied international calls in recent weeks to halt the draconian sanctions, but has even slapped more restrictive measures on the Islamic Republic.

Washington re-imposed its sanctions on Iran in May 2018 after unilaterally leaving a historic nuclear accord with the Islamic Republic and five other major powers that has been endorsed by the UN Security Council.

Despite unilateral US sanctions, the Islamic Republic has managed to make great achievements in the fight against coronavirus.

The vice president for science and technology said on Monday that Iran is to export diagnostic kits that it has indigenously produced for identification of the new coronavirus patients to Germany and Turkey

Speaking to IRNA, Sourena Sattari identified the devices as serologic test kits developed by Iranian science-based companies that have been granted export permits by the country’s Health Ministry. Serologic testing is used for identifying antibodies in serum.

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