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U.S. says Iran may have suppressed ‘vital details’ on coronavirus outbreak

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday said the U.S. was deeply concerned Iran may have covered up details about the spread of coronavirus.

He called on all nations to tell the truth about the epidemic.

“The United States is deeply concerned by information indicating the Iranian regime may have suppressed vital details about the outbreak in that country,’’ he said.

Pompeo told reporters, that he criticised Beijing for what he characterised as the censorship of media and medical professionals.

“All nations, including Iran, should tell the truth about the coronavirus and cooperate with international aid organisations,’’ he added.

Iran’s coronavirus death toll rose to 16 on Tuesday, the highest outside China, increasing its international isolation as nations from South Korea to Italy accelerated emergency measures to curb the epidemic’s global spread.

Believed to come from wildlife in Wuhan city, the flu-like disease has infected 80,000 people and killed 2,663 in China.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says the epidemic there has peaked and has been declining since Feb. 2.

Beijing earlier revoked the credentials of three Wall Street Journal correspondents over a column China said was racist, and the U.S. has said it was considering a range of responses to their expulsion.

Pressed on what steps the Trump administration might take, Pompeo declined to provide any details beyond saying a broad range of options were on the table.

“Expelling our journalists exposes once again the government’s issue that led to SARS and now the coronavirus namely censorship.

“It can have deadly consequences , (referring to the 2002-2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome).

“If China permitted its own and foreign journalists and medical personnel to speak and investigate freely, Chinese officials and other nations would have been far better prepared to address the challenge of coronavirus,’’ Pompeo said.

Pompeo said that in spite of the coronavirus epidemic, the U.S. planned to move forward and host a special meeting with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Las Vegas in March.

Edited By: Hadiza Mohammed/Emmanuel Yashim

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