DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iran’s supreme leader is refusing US assistance to fight the new coronavirus, citing an unfounded conspiracy theory that the virus could be man-made by America.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei makes the comments in a speech in Tehran broadcast live today across Iran marking Nowruz, the Persian New Year. He has called off his usual speech at Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad over the virus outbreak.
He relies on the conspiracy theory to refuse assistance.
“Possibly your (offered) medicine is a way to spread the virus more,” Khamenei says.
His comments come as Iran has over 20,600 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus amid 1,556 reported deaths.
Iran is one of the hardest-hit countries in the world by the new virus. Across the Middle East, Iran represents eight out of 10 cases of the virus and those leaving the Islamic Republic have carried the virus to other countries.