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Trump offers to assist arch-rival Iran in fight against coronavirus 'if they ask'

The United States has no diplomatic ties with Iran [Getty]

Date of publication: 1 March, 2020

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US President Trump appeared to extend an olive branch to his top adversary Iran on Saturday, one of the countries hardest hit by the new coronavirus.
US President Donald Trump on Saturday declared his readiness to assist Iran in its fight against the novel coronavirus, Covid-19.

"If we can help the Iranians with this problem, we are certainly willing to do so...All they have to do is ask. We will have great professionals over there," Trump said at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) near Washington.

Nearly 210 people have died in Iran as a result of the new disease, BBC Persian report, a figure six times higher than the official death toll of 34, given by the health ministry on Friday.

While Iran has rejected the claim as rumour, it has has scrambled to bring the outbreak under control, shutting schools, suspending cultural and sporting events.

It has even halted meetings of the cabinet and parliament, amid the disease's spread among the country's political elite.

On Saturday, recently-elected Iranian MP Mohammad Ali Ramazani died after being tested positive for the deadly virus a few days earlier, The Independent reported.

The health ministry on Saturday reported nine new deaths and a 53 percent jump in infections over the previous 24 hours, taking the overall total to 43 deaths and 593 cases.

It was the highest number of new cases for a single day since Iran announced its first two deaths on February 19. in Qom, a centre for Islamic studies and pilgrims from abroad.

Read more: Iranian MP dies of Coronavirus as Tehran rejects higher death toll as 'rumors' 

Following US authorities' confirmation of the first fatality on American soil, Trump imposed new restrictions on anyone who had travelled to the Islamic Republic in the last 14 days.

According to AFP, the US State Department formally communicated its willingess to assist Iran in "unspecified ways" through a message sent via Switzerland, which represents US interests in Tehran.

On Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Iran to "tell the truth" about its outbreak, amid allegations of a cover-up in the state, a staunch adversary of the Trump administration.

Pompeo claimed that Iran, along with China, the epicentre of the virus, could have better contained their respective outbreaks if they allowed free expression, saluting foreign journalists who had reported the epidemic.

Iran's coronavirus death toll is the highest for any country other than China - where COVID-19 first emerged.

One of Iran's seven vice presidents, Massoumeh Ebtekar, and Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi are among several senior officials who have been infected.

Many of Iran's neighbours have reported coronavirus infections in people linked to Iran, and most have imposed restrictions on travel to and from the Islamic republic.

On Wednesday, Iranian authorities announced domestic travel restrictions for people with confirmed or suspected infections.

The United States, which has no diplomatic ties with Iran since 1980, pulled out of a landmark nuclear deal with the country and reimposed crippling sanctions in 2018 that have heavily hit its infrastructure, including its healthcare sector. 

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