The U.S. plans to block Iran’s requested $5 billion emergency loan from the International Monetary Fund for funding Tehran says it needs to fight its coronavirus crisis.
Senior officials in the Trump administration said Iran’s government has billion-dollar accounts still at its disposal. If allowed to tap IMF financing, the officials said, Tehran would then be able to divert those or other funds to help its economy, which has been weakened by U.S. sanctions, or finance militants in the Middle East, rather than on containing the pandemic.
Iranian “officials have a long history of diverting funds allocated for humanitarian goods into their own pockets and to their terrorist proxies, ” one of the administration officials said.
The IMF, which is facing urgent funding requests from scores of governments, said it is in talks with Tehran to determine its eligibility for an emergency loan.
The pandemic has torn through Iran, one of the worst-affected countries, and jolted an Iranian economy already reeling from the Trump administration sanctions under its “maximum pressure campaign.” Despite calls from some humanitarian groups and other nations to ease the sanctions, the administration has instead said it won’t relent in putting pressure on Tehran.
Iran’s representative at the United Nations didn’t respond to a request for comment on the U.S. decision on IMF funding. Iranian officials have called the U.S. sanctions amid the pandemic “medical terrorism” and said U.S. offers of humanitarian assistance to help fight the coronavirus are “deceptions and lies.”
As the IMF’s largest shareholder, the U.S. largely determines the fate of bailout requests, though technically IMF member countries could amass a majority of votes to approve Iran’s loan even with U.S. opposition.
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