TEHRAN, Iran — Iran said Thursday it asked the International Monetary Fund for a $5 billion loan to fight the coronavirus, the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that it has sought such assistance, in a staggering admission of how fragile its economy has become amid the epidemic and punishing U.S. sanctions. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that the Washington-based IMF should “stand on right side of history & act responsibly” by releasing the funds. He also said the fight against the virus, which has infected more than 10,000 people in Iran and killed hundreds, has been “stymied by vast shortages caused by restrictions,” a reference to the U.S. sanctions. Even before the virus struck, Iran’s economy was being battered by plunging oil prices and the sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump since May 2018 after he unilaterally withdrew the United States from the nuclear deal that Tehran struck with world powers. Iran’s Central Bank chief Abdolnasser Hemmati said he asked for the $5 billion loan last week in a letter to IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva. She had said the IMF was prepared to make rapid support available to low-income countries through a $50 billion emergency fund that


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