WHO chief rejects 'baseless' allegation by Pompeo

World Health Organization chief rejects claim by Secretary of State that he owed his position to a deal with China.

Elad Benari ,

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

The World Health Organization (WHO) chief on Thursday rejected as false an allegation by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that he owed his position to a deal with China, AFP reports.

Pompeo had told a private meeting of MPs on Tuesday that the WHO had become a "political" body, alleging that its decisions were influenced by a deal struck between chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and China that helped him become its head.

"When push came to shove, when it really mattered most", people died "because of the deal that was made," Pompeo asserted.

Asked about Pompeo's allegations during a virtual press conference on Thursday, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said they were "untrue and unacceptable and without any foundation for that matter."

He insisted that the "sole focus... of the entire organization is on saving lives. WHO will not be distracted by these comments and we don't want the entire international community also to be distracted."

He reiterated his warning that one of the "greatest threats in the current crisis is the "politicization of the pandemic."

The WHO has had a contentious relationship with the White House. In May, President Donald Trump warned the WHO that the US will permanently cut all funding for the international health organization if it does not make major reforms.

Before that, Trump had suspended US funding of the WHO. The US contributes roughly $900 million to the WHO’s two-year budget cycle, or just under one-fifth of the organization’s total budget. The US is the WHO’s largest contributor.

Earlier this month, a senior administration official confirmed that the White House has officially withdrawn the United States from the WHO.

The move was criticized by former US Vice President and Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden, who vowed to have the US rejoin the WHO if he is elected in November.