Iran’s Supreme Leader on Friday banned the government from importing Covid-19 vaccines from the United States and Britain, labelling the Western powers “untrustworthy”, as the infection spreads in the Middle East’s hardest-hit country.
In a live televised speech, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei raised the prospect of the two Western countries possibly seeking to spread the infection to other countries.
He added that Iran could obtain vaccines “from other reliable places”. He gave no details, but China and Russia are both allies of Iran.
“Imports of US and British vaccines into the country are forbidden … They’re completely untrustworthy. It’s not unlikely they would want to contaminate other nations,” said Khamenei, the country’s highest authority.
“Given our experience with France’s HIV-tainted blood supplies, French vaccines aren’t trustworthy either,” Khamenei said, referring to the country’s contaminated blood scandal of the 1980s and 1990s.
Iran launched human trials of its first domestic Covid vaccine candidate late last month, saying it could help Iran defeat the pandemic despite US sanctions that affect its ability to import vaccines.
Tensions between Washington and Tehran have risen since 2018, when President Donald Trump abandoned Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions to pressure Tehran into negotiating strict curbs on its nuclear programme, ballistic missile development and support for regional proxy forces.
In retaliation for US sanctions, which were lifted under the nuclear deal, Tehran has gradually violated the accord. President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to rejoin the agreement if Tehran also returns to full compliance.
Ayatollah Khamenei said Tehran was in no rush for the United States to re-enter the deal, but that sanctions must be lifted immediately. Iran’s utmost authority, Khamenei ruled out any talks over Tehran’s missile programme and alleged involvement in the Middle East, as demanded by the United States and some other major powers.
“Contrary to the US, Iran’s involvement in the region creates stability and is aimed at preventing instability … Iran’s involvement in the region is definite and will continue.”—Reuters