Iran drug report unnerves opposition

Iran drug report unnerves opposition

MASERU-Reports that the government could buy antiretroviral drugs from Iran have unnerved opposition politicians who fear the move could anger the country’s biggest donor, the United States.
The US has slapped economic sanctions on Iran which it sees as a sponsor of terrorism. The two countries do not see eye-to-eye since they felt out in 1979.
Health Minister Nkaku Kabi said he had since dispatched a team of negotiators to Iran, Kuwait and India to explore if Lesotho could buy ARVs from those countries.
The Democratic Congress (DC) party deputy leader, Motlalentoa Letsosa, said the US has a long relationship with Lesotho.
He says the US government has done a lot in Lesotho in the fight against HIV/AIDs.

Letsosa said Lesotho could not be a friend to both the US and Iran especially when these two countries do not have good diplomatic relations.
“In short, the relationship between Lesotho and the US can deteriorate drastically (if Lesotho befriends Iran),” Letsosa said.
He said if this could happen, relations between Lesotho and the US could become strained.

The National Independent Party (NIP) leader, Kimetso Mathaba, said the US is a superpower and almost all countries adhere to its terms and conditions.
He says if Lesotho could decide to work with Iran in the provision of ARVs that could pose a serious danger for Lesotho.
“Lesotho has a long history with the US. If this happens, it could affect the relationship of the two countries,” Mathaba says.
“Undeniably,” Mathaba said, “the results could be a bitter pill for Lesotho to swallow.”

He insisted that there is no other country than the US that has helped Lesotho in the fight against HIV/AIDs.
Mathaba said for Lesotho to qualify for the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact I, the US gave them some conditions to satisfy especially in the Land Act 2010.
“There were some amendments that we were supposed to make in that Act so that we could qualify for the money,” he said.
He said he believes even in the case of Compact II, there are still certain conditions that the country will have to satisfy so that it could qualify.
“Such conditions usually remain a secret to the incumbent government,” Mathaba, a former government minister, said.
“Americans are very strict in whatever they do,” he said.

He said Lesotho worked nicely with India with a provision of kidney dialysis machines.
The Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD)’s deputy leader, Tšeliso Mokhosi, said should Lesotho opt to work with Iran with the provision of ARVs, “this would definitely soil up the long relationship between Lesotho and the US”.

The vast majority of USAID’s work in Lesotho is related to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) programme.
Just in February this year, PEPFAR pledged M1.2 billion in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
The opposition politicians say their worries stem from how wealthy countries, companies and individual businessmen felt the brunt of the US’s anger for their support for Iran.
For example, in 2014 the US put over M70 million (US$5 million) bounty on a Chinese businessman, Li Fangwei, for allegedly being instrumental in evading sanctions against Iran’s missile programme.

In the same year, French bank BNP Paribas agreed to pay over M40 billion (US$8.9 billion) fine for violating sanctions against Iran.
Germany’s Commerzbank, France’s Credit Agricole and Swiss UBS were also fined.
In 2015, Germany’s largest bank Deutsche Bank was fined over M1.2 billion (US$258 million) for violating sanctions against Iran, Libya and Syria.
In May this year, the US warned banks, investors, traders, and companies of the United Kingdom which trade with Iran through the Instex system that they will be punished somehow by Washington.
In August 2018 when the Trump administration imposed the sanctions, it warned that “anyone doing business with Iran will not be able to do business with the United States”.

Majara Molupe

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