Backing Trump, U.S. Republicans call for WHO chief to resign

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican U.S. lawmakers called on President Donald Trump on Thursday to withhold payments to the World Health Organization until its director general resigns, backing Trump’s criticism of the U.N. agency’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Seventeen of Trump’s fellow Republicans on the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee wrote a letter to Trump supporting his announcement this week that he was withholding funding for the WHO, and saying he should condition the resumption of contributions on the resignation of Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Trump drew immediately condemnation on Tuesday from many world leaders and health experts, as well as U.S. Democrats, by saying he would halt U.S. funding of the Geneva-based WHO over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

They said the WHO may need reorganization but that Trump should not try to force it in the middle of a crisis that has killed more than 138,000 people globally and devastated world economies.

The U.S. president, who has reacted angrily to criticism of his own handling of the virus outbreak, said the WHO had promoted China’s “disinformation” about the coronavirus and been too lenient with Beijing in the early weeks of the crisis.

In their letter, the House Republicans said they had lost faith in Tedros and blamed the WHO and Chinese Communist Party for the extent of the current global health crisis, although they praised the “vital role” the WHO plays around the world.

“At times, the WHO is the only organization working on the ground in the worst places in the world, and the U.S. should continue to support this important work,” said the letter, led by Representative Mike McCaul, the committee’s senior Republican.

“However, it is imperative that we act swiftly to ensure the impartiality, transparency, and legitimacy of this valuable institution,” the letter said.

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