Iran is among one of the worst-hit countries in the world, with over 21,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus. The disease has killed at least 1,812 Iranians, including 127 in the past 24 hours. The scale of the outbreak in the country has prompted Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to accuse the US of manufacturing a “special version” of the deadly virus.
Khamenei, Iran’s top political, military and religious leader, turned down offers of US support on Sunday, in a speech to mark the start of the Persian calendar year.
When rejecting the offer of aid from the Americans he claimed Washington would exploit any acceptance of aid.
In his speech, the Ayatollah said: “The American leaders have said several times that ‘we are willing to provide you with treatment and medical assistance’.
“First of all, you face shortages yourselves. If you have anything available, use it yourselves.
“Second, you, Americans, are accused of producing this virus.
“I do not know how true this accusation is. But as long as this accusation stands, which sane mind will trust you?”
Khamenei’s accusation is part of a mounting, and wholly unsubstantiated, propaganda effort against the United States led largely by nations ranged against Washington.
The Chinese government has already accused the USA of manufacturing the virus, circulating conspiracy theories throughout the state.
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Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused Washington of dishonesty over what the US government knows about COVID-19.
His accusations, made on Twitter, have been widely recirculated on the internet.
The Chinese official continues to circulate conspiracy theories on social media, writing: “I really think COVID-19 has been here in America for a while.
“Do you guys remember how sick everyone was during the holidays/early January?
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“And how everyone was saying they had the ‘flu’ and the flu shot ‘didn’t work’?”
He also accused the US President of scapegoating China for his continued reference to the disease as the “Chinese virus”.
Donald Trump has been widely condemned for referring to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus”.
He has referred to it as such on Twitter and during televised press conferences and use of the term is believed to be inciting racist attacks against Asians of different ethnicities.
Cynthia Choi, co-executive director of Chinese for Affirmative Action, a community-based civil rights organisation in San Francisco, said: “The President of the United States, and other White House officials, using the term ‘Chinese virus’, or ‘Kung-Flu’, or ‘Wuhan virus’, we believe is inciting and provoking this anti-Asian sentiment and is really responsible in the rise of these more violent acts.
“He’s refusing to call it by its correct medical name, which is COVID-19, or the coronavirus.
“He’s refusing to do that, even after it was called to his attention that this is harming and endangering the lives of Asian Americans.”
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