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Coronavirus: Iranian leaders vow to defeat virus in Nowruz messages, as death toll rises

President Hassan Rouhani says Iran will overcome covid-19 with 'unity' as country saw 149 more deaths over the last 24 hours
In his speech, Rouhani acknowledged it had been a difficult year for Iran (Reuters)

Iran's supreme leader and president vowed to defeat the coronavirus during messages to mark the Persian new year as the death toll continued to rise from the illness. 

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Both Ayatollah Ali Khameini and President Hassan Rouhani acknowledged that it had been a difficult year for Iran. 

Khameini used his Nowruz message to praise the bravery of the country's doctors and nurses as they battled the coronavirus, which has infected more than 18,000 people in Iran, according to official figures. 

He prayed that the coming year would see "great victories" after a turbulent year that saw an increase in sanctions imposed on Iran by the United States. 

Rouhani shared a similar tone to Khameini and said that "Iran would overcome the coronavirus with unity".

The leaders' messages came just before the Iranian health ministry reported 149 new deaths in the last 24 hours, raising the official death toll to 1,433. 

The ministry added that the rate of infections had increased by 1,237 to 19,644 people in total. 

The Islamic Republic continues to be one of the worst-hit by the Covid-19 coronavirus outside of China, with Iran's health ministry on Thursday saying that a person was dying every 10 minutes from the virus in the country.

However, US President Donald Trump's administration reiterated that there would be no relief from US sanctions. 

"Iran benefited from America's sanctions. It made us self-sufficient in all areas," Khamenei said.

Trump pulled the US out of a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six countries and reimposed sanctions on the country, crippling its economy.

Earlier this week, the US blacklisted five companies based in the United Arab Emirates, three in mainland China, three in Hong Kong, and one in South Africa for trading in Iran's petrochemicals.