Republicans urge Trump to withhold funds unless WHO chief quits

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Congressional Republicans on Thursday urged US President Donald Trump to condition US funding for the World Health Organisation on the resignation of its chief over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Seventeen Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee said they had "lost faith" in Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus' WHO leadership, even as they stressed the organisation is vital to tackling the world's health problems.

"Director-General Tedros has failed in his mandate to objectively respond to the largest global health crisis since the HIV/AIDS pandemic," the lawmakers, led by Republican Michael McCaul, wrote Trump in a letter.

Trump announced on Tuesday that Washington would halt payments to the UN body that amounted to $400 million last year.

He accused it of "mismanaging" the crisis and covering up the seriousness of the Covid-19 outbreak in China before it spread.

Emergency declarations

More than 141 000 people worldwide have died, and the global economy has nosedived.

The Republicans accused Tedros of being too willing to believe Beijing and of brushing off a Taiwanese warning on the ease of viral transmission.

Tedros, they said, delayed emergency declarations "despite clear evidence of the rapid spread and human-to-human transmission of Covid-19".

WHO declared a pandemic on 11 March, after 114 countries had reported cases and 4 500 people had died, and after weeks of Tedros advising against travel bans.

"We have lost faith in Director-General Tedros' ability to lead the World Health Organisation," the lawmakers said.

But they added that they "understand, and value, the vital role that the WHO plays around the world, especially in acute humanitarian settings".

They also noted that the WHO is often "the only organisation working on the ground in the worst places in the world, and the US should continue to support this important work".

But they urged swift action to ensure the "impartiality, transparency, and legitimacy" of the WHO.

"We recommend that you condition any future Fiscal Year 2020 voluntary contributions to the WHO on the resignation of Director-General Tedros."

The 55-year-old malaria specialist is Ethiopia's former minister of health and foreign affairs.

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