Iran asks for IMF loan; business to remain closed despite the easing
DUBAI (Reuters) – President Hassan Rouhani lobbied Wednesday for an emergency loan of $ 5 billion from the IMF. Iran has sought to tackle the worst coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East, saying the Fund would be guilty of discrimination if it withholds the money.
Rouhani also said some businesses will remain closed until further notice, after authorities announced last week that they would begin relaxing a shutdown order from April 11.
Iran’s central bank wrote to the International Monetary Fund last month asking for the $ 5 billion of its Quick Finance Initiative, an emergency program that helps countries facing sudden shocks such as natural disasters. This was the first request for assistance from the IMF from Tehran since the Iranian Islamic revolution of 1979.
“I urge international organizations to fulfill their duties (…) We are a member of the IMF,” Rouhani said at a televised cabinet meeting. “There should be no discrimination in granting loans,” Rouhani added, saying such discrimination would be unacceptable.
In a tweet on Sunday, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani accused the United States of blocking Tehran’s loan request to the IMF.
Iran has banned intercity travel and closed non-essential businesses to fight an epidemic that, according to official figures, has killed 3,993 people and infected 64,586.
Authorities have said some businesses whose operations do not create a great risk of the virus spreading will be allowed to reopen from Saturday. They did not give a detailed explanation of the companies that fall into this category.
“But high-risk businesses will remain closed until further notice,” Rohani said. “We must continue to fight the disease while our economic activities continue as much as possible.”
An IMF official said the Fund is in dialogue with Iran, with talks aimed at understanding Iran’s needs and what is required for the loan request to be processed.
The coronavirus epidemic has further damaged the Iranian economy, already hit by US sanctions, reimposed since 2018, when Washington walked away from a deal to lift them in exchange for restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program.
Tehran criticized the United States and its “maximum pressure” policy for restricting Iran’s ability to respond effectively to the virus.
“The US sanctions against Iran are economic and medical terrorism… They are in violation of international medical conventions,” Rouhani said.
U.S. officials said the sanctions were not targeting drugs for Iran and Washington had offered to help Tehran cope with the outbreak. Iran rejected the offer as ridiculous.
(In paragraph 6, an official from the Ministry of Health corrects the figures for deaths and infections)
Additional reporting by Davide Barbuscia in Dubai; Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Catherine Evans and Peter Graff