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Warren asks administration for assurances that sanctions aren't hindering coronavirus containment in Iran

Warren asks administration for assurances that sanctions aren't hindering coronavirus containment in Iran
© Greg Nash

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThe Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation Disney laying off 32,000 workers as coronavirus batters theme parks Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year MORE (D-Mass.) is seeking assurances from the Trump administration that humanitarian aid to Iran is not being hindered by U.S. sanctions amid the global spread of the coronavirus.

“I understand that humanitarian items are exempt from United States sanctions, that the Iranian government has the primary responsibility for the health of its citizens, and that a deficient response to the coronavirus outbreak by the Iranian government should not be blamed on the United States or any other foreign power,” Warren wrote in a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: Initial jobless claims rise for 2nd week | Dow dips below 30K | Mnuchin draws fire for COVID-19 relief move | Manhattan DA appeals dismissal of Manafort charges Mnuchin to put 5B in COVID-19 relief funds beyond successor's reach The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience MORE and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoBiden faces challenges, opportunities in Middle East O'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' Israeli military instructed to prepare for Trump strike on Iran: report MORE.

“At the same time, I am concerned about the vulnerability of the Iranian people to the coronavirus and the potential for Iran's coronavirus cases to worsen the spread of the disease to neighboring countries, including regional allies, and to the rest of the world,” she added.

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Iran has the most coronavirus deaths after China.

The Treasury Department on Thursday issued a license to allow humanitarian aid to go to Iran through a Swiss channel.

Warren argued that while the Treasury Department has taken some steps toward allowing humanitarian trade, banks and businesses are still reluctant to finance those transactions.

During congressional testimony Friday, Pompeo said the U.S. “fully supports” sending humanitarian aid to Iran.

“We have made offers to the Islamic Republic of Iran to help, and we’ve made it clear to others around the world and in the region that assistance, humanitarian assistance to push back against the coronavirus in Iran is something the United States of America fully supports,” Pompeo told members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

When asked if the administration would waive sanctions to help fight coronavirus in Iran, Pompeo denied reports that the sanctions have made it difficult for Iranians to access medical supplies.

“There has been continuously an avenue for the movement of medical and humanitarian goods inside the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said. “They have not been sanctioned at any time, before the advent of coronavirus or concurrently.”