Washington's offer to help Iran fight the coronavirus pandemic is strange since the US is facing its own shortages in dealing with the outbreak, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says.
Iran's supreme leader on Sunday refused US assistance to fight the new coronavirus, citing a conspiracy theory that the virus could be man-made by America.
"Several times Americans have offered to help Iran to contain the virus. Aside from the fact that there are suspicions about this virus being created by America ... their offer is strange since they face shortages in their fight against the virus," said Khamenei in a televised speech.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's comments come as Iran after the United States had sent Tehran a blunt message that the spread of the coronavirus will not save it from US sanctions that are choking off its oil revenues and isolating its economy.
But while Iranian civilian officials in recent days have increasing criticised those sanctions, 80-year-old Khamenei instead chose to traffic in the same narrative that has increasingly been used by Chinese officials about the new virus.
“Possibly your (offered) medicine is a way to spread the virus more,” Khamenei said. “Or if you send therapists and doctors, maybe he wants to see the effect of the poison, since it is said that part of the virus is built for Iran."
"Iran has the capability to overcome any kind of crisis including coronavirus outbreak."
Khamenei made the comments in a speech in Tehran broadcast live on Sunday across Iran marking Nowruz, the Persian New Year.
He had called off his usual speech at Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad over the virus outbreak.
His comments come as Iran has over 20,600 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus amid 1,556 reported deaths.
Iran is one of the hardest-hit countries in the world by the new virus.
Across the Mideast, Iran represents eight of 10 cases of the virus and those leaving the Islamic Republic have carried the virus to other countries.