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Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Photo: Iranian Supreme Leader Press Office/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday refused assistance from the United States to help fight the coronavirus outbreak in his country, citing a conspiracy theory that accuses the U.S. military of developing and spreading the virus, AP reports.

Why it matters: Iran has reported more than 20,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 1,600 deaths, making it one of the hardest-hit countries in the world. Its economy was already in free-fall mostly due to sanctions imposed by the Trump administration.

  • The conspiracy theory Khamenei used is the same one being spread by some Chinese officials to deflect blame for the pandemic.

What he's saying: “I do not know how real this accusation is but when it exists, who in their right mind would trust you to bring them medication?” Khamenei said, according to AP. “Possibly your medicine is a way to spread the virus more.”

  • “You might send people as doctors and therapists, maybe they would want to come here and see the effect of the poison they have produced in person,” he said.
  • Khameini also alleged without evidence that the virus “is specifically built for Iran using the genetic data of Iranians which they have obtained through different means.”

The big picture: Iranian officials have criticized offers of aid from the U.S., claiming they are disingenuous.

  • U.S. sanctions have blocked Iran from selling its crude oil and accessing international financial markets.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday that "the whole world should know that humanitarian assistance to Iran is wide open, it’s not sanctioned. ... They’ve got a terrible problem there and we want that humanitarian, medical assistance to get to the people of Iran."

One person dies in Iran every 10 minutes from the coronavirus, and someone is infected every 50 minutes, according to the Health Ministry.

  • Iran on Sunday enacted a two-week closure on major shopping centers in the country. Only pharmacies, supermarkets, groceries and bakeries remain open.

Go deeper: Coronavirus could force the world into an unprecedented depression

Go deeper

Biden signs racial equity executive orders

Joe Biden prays at Grace Lutheran Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on September 3, 2020, in the aftermath of the police shooting of Jacob Blake. PHOTO: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed executive orders on housing and ending the Justice Department's use of private prisons as part of what the White House is calling his “racial equity agenda.”

The big picture: Biden needs the support of Congress to push through police reform or new voting rights legislation. The executive orders serve as his down payment to immediately address systemic racism while he focuses on the pandemic.

Senate confirms Antony Blinken as secretary of state

Antony Blinken. Photo: Alex Edelman/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The Senate voted 78-22 on Tuesday to confirm Antony Blinken as secretary of state.

Why it matters: Blinken, a longtime adviser to President Biden, will lead the administration's diplomatic efforts to re-engage with the world after four years of former President Trump's "America first" policy.

2 hours ago - World

Former Google CEO and others call for U.S.-China tech "bifurcation"

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A new set of proposals by a group of influential D.C. insiders and tech industry practitioners calling for a degree of "bifurcation" in the U.S. and Chinese tech sectors is circulating in the Biden administration. Axios has obtained a copy.

Why it matters: The idea of "decoupling" certain sectors of the U.S. and Chinese economies felt radical three years ago, when Trump's trade war brought the term into common parlance. But now the strategy has growing bipartisan and even industry support.

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