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Iran seeks IMF loan to assist with coronavirus efforts as death toll climbs

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. (YouTube)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Iran says another 75 people have died from illness caused by the novel coronavirus, raising the death toll in the country to 429 as Tehran seeks a multibillion-dollar emergency loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to combat the outbreak.

Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said on March 12 that 1,075 new confirmed cases of the COVID-19 infection were identified in the country in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number to 10,075.

Clerical rulers are struggling to contain the spread of the virus in Iran, the hardest-hit country in the Middle East, despite the closure of schools and universities and the suspension of religious, cultural, and sports events across the country.

Earlier in the day, the Central Bank of Iran said it had asked the IMF for $5 billion in financing for the country’s efforts to fight the contagion.

The bank’s governor, Abdolnaser Hemmati, said the request was made last week in a letter to IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva.

The Washington-based international lender has said it stands ready to support countries through a Rapid Financial Instrument.

“Our Central Bank requested access to this facility immediately,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted, urging the IMF’s board to respond to the request “responsibly.”

Iran has not received assistance from the IMF since a “standby credit” issued between 1960 and 1962, according to the fund’s data.

The coronavirus outbreak has exarcerbated Iran’s economic woes, with its neighbors closing their borders to Iranians and countries cutting travel links with the Islamic republic.