SECRETARY-general of the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah has strongly criticised the US’s covering up of the truth about the extent of the spread of the new coronavirus outbreak.
‘We are in the middle of a battle that resembles a world war,’ Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah said during a television interview last Friday, commenting on the enormity of the outbreak, Lebanon’s Naharnet news website reported.
US President Donald Trump and his team have been ‘the worst liars’ when it comes to fighting the new virus, the Hezbollah chief said.
Trump has blamed his predecessor for the slow coronavirus testing process in the US, claiming former President Obama ‘made changes that only complicated things further.’
Nasrallah accused Trump of downplaying the risk posed by the virus, and said the US and the UK have been concealing the real number of those infected.
The virus first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year. It has so far infected over 137,000 people and killed more than 5,000 others.
However, Nasrallah hailed the Lebanese Health Ministry’s transparency in reporting the figures concerning the outbreak, and said Hezbollah’s entire resources and potential are at the government’s disposal to be used towards fighting the virus.
Battling the virus is now the Lebanese government’s top priority, he said, and confronting the issue is a national duty for all, that has to be approached with absolute unity, Lebanon’s The Daily Star paper reported.
Nasrallah called on both his supporters and opponents to look beyond political, sectarian, and religious differences so as to tackle the new virus. He warned that the battle against it would not be successful, but instead would lead to greater losses if the issue were to be ‘instrumentalised for political gains’.
The Hezbollah chief also denounced the US’s attitude towards Iran amid the Islamic Republic’s tough battle against the viral outbreak.
He said what the Islamic Republic was currently in need of was not the US’s help – apparently referring to Washington’s ‘offers’ of assistance for Iran’s preventative measures – but the removal of the American sanctions.
Tehran itself, has condemned such US proposals as ‘duplicitous’, reminding that the US is making such offers while at the same time retaining the sanctions and preventing exports of food and medicine to the Islamic Republic.
Trump’s offer to ‘assist’ it to counter the coronavirus outbreak is ‘a repulsive display of hypocrisy amid Washington’s sanctions and medical terrorism targeting Tehran’.
The Hezbollah chief also hailed Iran’s transparency amid the outbreak.
But he also criticised some Persian Gulf countries’ media outlets for trying to direct attention towards and blame some Iranian authorities’ who have caught the virus. Nasrallah said such officials, who stand with their people and are infected with the virus while trying to provide a service for the nation, a source of pride.
Separately, the Hezbollah secretary-general pointed to Lebanon’s financial crisis, saying he did not oppose foreign assistance, not even from the International Monetary Fund, as long as the conditions suited the Lebanese people and did not do them a disservice.
‘Reform, fighting corruption, transparency, and judicial independence are excellent conditions (for a rescue package) that we have asked for,’ Lebanon’s Daily Star cited him as saying.
Nasrallah also condemned a recent set of deadly American airstrikes against Iraq as a violation of the country’s sovereignty.
Earlier, the air raids targeted several locations in Iraq, including a recently-opened airport in the city of Karbala, killing three soldiers, two police officers, and one civilian.
According to the Iraqi military, four more soldiers, two other officers, another civilian, and five individuals affiliated with Iraq’s anti-terror Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU) were also wounded in the attacks.
The Pentagon claimed the strikes had targeted five weapons stores which were being used by Iraqi groups to ‘target US forces.’
- President Hassan Rouhani has dismissed rumours that Iran is planning to put Tehran and other cities under quarantine amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Rouhani also said, after a meeting with members of the government economic bureau as well as representatives of the private sector, that talks are underway with neighbouring countries to facilitate cross-border trade.
‘We have no such thing as quarantine at all. There have been rumours that certain jobs and stores in Tehran or some cities will be quarantined. They are not true,’ he said.
‘There will be no quarantine, neither today nor during, before or after Nowruz,’ he added, referring to the Persian New Year holiday which begins on March 20.
Rouhani also stressed that people are free to pursue their professions as they like, while the government continues to offer its services as usual.
‘However, we are doing our best so that the government’s economic activities and services are offered in a way that will keep people at home longer and prevent them from mingling as much as possible,’ he noted.
Elsewhere in his remarks, the president said Iran is holding talks with its neighbours to facilitate cross-border trade and transportation of goods.
Rouhani outlined the government’s plans to help people and businesses overcome difficulties in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
These measures include giving cash handouts to those on low wages and offering tax and utility breaks of up to three months.
The Iranian Army has begun drills to prevent and monitor the outbreak of the new coronavirus, called COVID-19, which initially emerged in China late last year and is now spreading throughout Europe and across the Middle East.
Kianoush Jahanpour, the head of the public relations and information centre of the Iranian Ministry of Health, said last Sunday that the virus had claimed 113 lives in the past 24 hours, bringing the overall death toll to 724.
Jahanpour said that 1,209 fresh cases were added to the number of confirmed infections during the period, bringing the total to 13,938.
‘The good news is that more than 4,590 of the overall confirmed cases have recovered’ and the patients have been discharged from hospital, he added. The official also said people should cancel all travel and stay at home so that the situation would improve in the coming days.
Jahanpour called on Iranians to ‘take the coronavirus seriously’ and especially be mindful of elderly relatives who are most vulnerable to the infection.
- The US State Department’s labelling of Jerusalem’s Palestinian residents as ‘non-Israeli citizens’ is a new crime committed by the US administration against the Palestinian people, Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qasem said.
In a press release, Qasem added that the ‘hostile’ US State Department’s move is part of the ‘big crime of the “deal of the century” which serves the interests of the Israeli far-right.’
Attempts by the Israeli occupation and the Trump administration to change the identity of Jerusalem or its indigenous Palestinian residents are bound to fail, Qasem pointed out.
Despite the joint Israeli-US aggression, Qasem continued, the Palestinian people will continue their struggle to restore their rights, above all their right to Jerusalem.