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WHO rejects reported Pompeo claim that China ‘bought’ UN health chief

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday bristled at reported US allegations that its executive, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, was "bought" by the Chinese government.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday bristled at reported US allegations that its executive, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, was “bought” by the Chinese government.

According to media reports, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo voiced his charge against the Ethiopian UN health chief when he met British parliamentarians this week.

“WHO is not aware of any such statement, but we strongly reject any ad hominem attacks and unfounded allegations,” the UN health agency said in a statement.

“WHO urges countries to remain focused on tackling the pandemic that is causing tragic loss of life and suffering,” it added.

Pompeo told a closed meeting of invited lawmakers on Tuesday that his allegation was based on a “firm intelligence foundation” but he gave no details, The Times and other British media said.

The newspaper cited “multiple sources” who attended the event hosted in London by the Henry Jackson Society, a right-wing foreign policy think-tank.

“When push came to shove, when it really mattered most, when there was a pandemic in China, Dr Tedros, who was … bought by the Chinese government,” The Telegraph quoted Pompeo as saying.

“I can’t say more, but I can tell [you] I’m saying this on a firm intelligence foundation, a deal was made .. there was a deal making [Tedros’] election and when push came to shove, you get dead Britons.”

Pompeo repeated Washington’s criticism of the UN health agency on Wednesday,  saying it had become “political” but did not comment on the allegations.

In an exclusive interview with Danish public broadcaster DR conducted on Wednesday in connection with a visit to Copenhagen, Pompeo said of the WHO: “It’s become political. It’s become corrupt. It failed to perform the mission that it was chartered to do.”

“An epidemic broke out, killing hundreds of thousands of people all across the world. Trillions of dollars lost in economic wealth. All as a direct result of the Chinese Communist Party covering up and doing it with a complicit World Health Organization,” Pompeo said.

“That’s not an organization that the United States wants to spend roughly half a billion dollars a year supporting. We want to support institutions that are functional and work, and we’ll make sure that we do our part to make sure that each of those institutions does just that,” he said.

Pompeo and US President Donald Trump have strongly criticized the WHO’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and accused it of helping China to mask the initial severity and source of the virus.

But they have not previously claimed Tedros was “bought” by Beijing.

Trump announced in May that he would withdraw from the WHO, and that the United States would halt funding to the WHO. The move has drawn concern, including from US allies.

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