Adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei dies of coronavirus
A senior member of Iran's advisory council died after contracting the novel coronavirus, state media reported on Monday, the first top official to succumb to the illness as the Islamic Republic struggles to contain the outbreak.
Expediency Council member Mohammad Mirmohammadi, who is among the officials that advise the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, died at the age of 71 at a Tehran hospital.
His death came as Iran announced 12 more coronavirus deaths, raising the total to 66 - the highest for any country other than China, where COVID-19 first emerged.
On Saturday, recently-elected Iranian MP Mohammed Ali Ramazani died after being tested positive for the deadly virus a few days earlier, The Independent reported.
One of Iran's seven vice presidents, Massoumeh Ebtekar, and Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi are among several senior officials who have been infected.
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Iran has reported 978 confirmed cases of the new virus, while across the wider Middle East region, there are over 1,150 cases of the new coronavirus, the majority of which are linked back to Iran.
Many of Iran's neighbours 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.
"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.
However, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi expectedly rejected the US offer.
"We neither count on such help nor are we ready to accept verbal help," Mousavi said. He added Iran has always been "suspicious" about America's intentions and accused the US government of trying to weaken Iranians' spirits over the outbreak.
Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Iran to "tell the truth" about its outbreak, amid allegations of a "cover-up".
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.
Experts worry Iran's percentage of deaths to infections, around 5.5 percent, is much higher than other countries, suggesting the number of infections in Iran may be much higher than current figures show.
The US, 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.