Iran, the Middle East country worst affected by the new coronavirus outbreak, asked last month for the $5 billion from the IMF’s Rapid Financing Initiative, an emergency program that aids countries faced with sudden shocks such as natural disasters.
It was Iran’s first request for IMF aid since the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.
“We have received a request for assistance, and since we have had limited engagement with Iran in recent times, the process of obtaining the information we require to assess the request is taking time,” Jihad Azour, director of the IMF’s Middle East and Central Asia Department, told Reuters.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said last week the IMF would be guilty of discrimination if it withholds the money for the country, which is a member of the IMF.
“Any member of the fund has the same rights of access to the IMF financing and resources subject to the fund’s rules and approval by the director board,” Azour said.
Abdolnaser Hemmati, the governor of the Central Bank of Iran, said Tuesday the loan is totally unconditional and must be given immediately.
He said such financing facilities are provided only to battle COVID-19, stressing that the loan is by no means conditional and must be made immediately.
The United States, which effectively holds a veto at the IMF, has signaled it has no intention of allowing the loan, alleging that Iran might use the funds to compensate the losses that have been brought about by the sanctions.
The United States launched a campaign of crippling sanctions against Iran in 2018 after US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from a nuclear deal.
Iran has repeatedly called on the Trump administration to reverse its sanctions policy, which has been opposed even by some US allies, particularly since the pandemic hit.
Medicines and medical equipment are technically exempt from the US sanctions but purchases are frequently blocked by the unwillingness of banks to process purchases for fear of incurring heavy US penalties.
Reuters, AFP and Tasnim contributed to this story.