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US groups urge Washington to end sanctions on Iran amid coronavirus

More than 70 civil society groups have urged the US to put an immediate end to its sanctions targeting Iran and other nations amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“In a context of global pandemic, impeding medical efforts in one country heightens the risk for all of us,” the US-based Common Dreams News Website cited an open letter written on behalf of the groups, including CodePink, Veterans Against the War and No War Campaign, as saying on Thursday.

The report claimed that the groups behind the letter represented up to 40 million people.

Entitled “Lift Sanctions, Save Lives,” the initiative is aimed at ensuring the economic warfare by the US claims as few lives as possible as the nations fight off the health crisis.

The letter, which addressed US President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin, called for immediate sanctions relief for numerous countries such as Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea.

The appeal also proposed a framework of safeguards assuring access to six categories of aid, either directly related to aid needed to counter the pandemic or to challenges exacerbated by the outbreak, such as providing adequate water and food.

The report also cited a number of activists urging the US to “rethink its approach to sanctions”.

“Denying people access to lifesaving resources now represents a risk to the entire world,” said Daniel Jasper of the American Friends Service Committee, a signatory to the letter.

“Sanctions kill innocents indiscriminately just like bombs,” said Peace Action senior policy director Paul Kawika Martin.

“During this pandemic crisis, the US needs to remove all barriers, like sanctions, so countries can counteract COVID-19,” he said.

The open letter addressing the Trump administration also warned of the risk of companies “over-complying” with US financial sanctions.

“Banks often block purchases for these items out of fear of running afoul of sanctions, in what is known as over-compliance,” said CodePink Latin America Campaign coordinator Teri Mattson.

 “Over-compliance is one of the many ways that innocent civilians end up being harmed by sanctions regimes,” Mattson said.

‘US sanctions during pandemic unconscionable’

Speaking to the US-based The Nation magazine in a report published on Thursday, US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who serves on the Congress’s Foreign Affairs committee, said that the US sanctions are “only harming innocent civilians who bear the brunt of this crisis”.

“Keeping sanctions in place on Iran during a global pandemic is unconscionable,” she said.

“Civilians are unable to receive lifesaving medicine and humanitarian supplies due to the US-placed sanctions,” she added.

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