Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called a U.S. offer of humanitarian aid against the nation’s coronavirus pandemic “strange,” calling U.S. officials “charlatans and liars.”
“Several times Americans have offered to help us to fight the pandemic. That is strange because you face shortages in America. Also you are accused of creating this virus,” Khamenei said in a televised speech, citing a baseless conspiracy theory Chinese intelligence officials have promoted.
“I do not know whether it is true. But when there is such an allegation, can a wise man trust you and accept your help offer? … You could be giving medicines to Iran that spread the virus or cause it to remain permanently,” Khamenei said, Reuters reported.
Tehran has accused heavy U.S. sanctions of exacerbating the outbreak, and refused to lift them despite appeals from China, a partner in the nuclear deal the U.S. withdrew from in 2018.
Khamenei vowed Iran would overcome the virus in the speech while also calling on Iranians to stay home after canceling his planned March 20 speech for the Persian New Year from the city of Mashhad.
“The Islamic Republic has the capability to overcome any kind of crisis and challenges, including the coronavirus outbreak,” Khamenei said, according to the news service.
Police said that millions have ignored warnings against travel during the holiday, with Tehran’s governor vowing that all retail locations except those providing essential goods and services will be closed in the capital beginning Sunday, the news service said.