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

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican U.S. lawmakers echoed President Donald Trump’s criticism of the World Health Organization on Thursday, with some suggesting he withhold aid until the U.N. agency’s director general resigns while others called for an international investigation of its handling of the coronavirus.

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 make the resumption of contributions conditional on the resignation of Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Trump drew immediate condemnation on Tuesday from many world leaders and health experts, as well as U.S. Democrats, after 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 have waited until after the current crisis, which has killed more than 138,000 people globally and devastated 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. [L2N2C22OT]

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.

“However, it is imperative that we act swiftly to ensure the impartiality, transparency, and legitimacy of this valuable institution,” said the letter, led by Representative Mike McCaul, the committee’s ranking Republican.

Also on Thursday, a group of eight Senate Republicans wrote to Trump asking him to work with countries such as Japan, South Korea and European nations to investigate the origins of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and WHO decision-making.

Their letter, led by Senator Marco Rubio, did not include any specific recommendation, such as Tedros’ dismissal.