U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slammed on Monday Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's remarks on coronavirus, saying his "lies" were endangering people's lives.
The State Department statement quoting the top U.S. diplomat came a day after Khamenei claimed the epidemic could be "man-made by the U.S., which is specifically built for Iran using the genetic data of Iranians."
Calling COVID-19 "Wuhan Virus," Pompeo said Khamenei's "fabrications are dangerous and they put Iranians and people around the world at greater risk."
The statement also mentioned "failed" steps taken by Iran to counter the virus as "facts that Iran regime would like to keep from the world."
Pompeo stressed that Iran refused American assistance to fight the pandemic due to a conspiracy theory, and that Khamenei's man-made virus claims came on Sunday "as Iran faces crushing U.S. sanctions blocking the country from selling its crude oil and accessing international financial markets."
The U.S. secretary of state accused Iran of "putting millions of lives at risk and infecting its people with running 55 flights between Tehran and China in February, ignored repeated warnings from its own health officials and denied its first death from the coronavirus for at least nine days."
Pompeo claimed that the Iranian regime continued to "lie" to the Iranian people and the world about the number of cases and deaths, saying the numbers were "far higher" than the regime admits.
Emphasizing that the U.S. had offered over $100 million in medical assistance to foreign countries so far, Pompeo said Khamenei rejected this offer "because he works tirelessly to concoct conspiracy theories and prioritizes ideology over the Iranian people."
In Iran, over 1,800 COVID-19 related deaths have been reported with more than 23,000 cases so far. The global death toll, meanwhile, tops 15,300, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University in the U.S.
The virus, which emerged in Wuhan, China last December, has spread to at least 167 countries and regions around the globe, while the tally of confirmed cases exceeds 350,000.