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W.H.O. Members Reject Trump's Demands but Agree to Study Its Virus Response
President Trump's angry demands for punitive action against the World Health Organization were rebuffed on Tuesday by the organization's other member nations, which decided instead to conduct an "impartial, independent" examination of the W.H.O.'s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a four-page letter late Monday, Mr. Trump had threatened to permanently cut off United States funding of the W.H.O. unless it committed to "major, substantive improvements" within 30 days. It was a major escalation of his repeated attempts to blame the W.H.O. and China for the spread of the virus and deflect responsibility for his handling of a worldwide public health crisis that has killed more than 90,000 people in the United States.
But representatives of the organization's member nations rallied around the W.H.O. at its annual meeting in Geneva, largely ignoring Mr. Trump's demand for an overhaul and calling for a global show of support in the face of a deadly pandemic.
The outcome left the United States isolated as officials from China, Russia and the European Union chided Mr. Trump over his heated threats even as they acknowledged the need for a review of how the W.H.O. performed as the virus spread from China to the rest of the world.
Public health experts noted that Mr. Trump's threats to withdraw from the organization and halt funding ignored the reality that any such moves would require the consent of Congress, something many analysts said was unlikely.
But the president's continued attacks on the W.H.O., experts said, threatened to hobble the organization at a critical moment and seriously damage international efforts to combat the virus, especially in poorer countries that depend heavily on the agency.
"Just when the world was trying to come together over an unprecedented health crisis, it's all splintered apart," said Lawrence O. Gostin, the director of the O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University. "This kind of disruption and setting global health on fire by the Trump administration is going to cost lives."
Virginie Battu-Henriksson, a spokeswoman for the European Commission, said it was "the time for solidarity, not the time for finger pointing." Valentina I. Matviyenko, the speaker of the upper house of the Russian Parliament, said Moscow would stand behind the W.H.O., adding that there was "certainly no reason to perform a mock trial or any kinds of investigations" or to "destroy the useful things that have been accumulated for decades by mankind."
The resolution approved by W.H.O. members without objection promised a "comprehensive evaluation" of the organization that would review "experience gained and lessons learned from the W.H.O.-coordinated international health response to Covid-19."
In a statement, the White House sought to claim victory, suggesting that the resolution amounted to a mandate to investigate Mr. Trump's concerns about the origins of the virus.
But the document, which was sponsored by scores of American allies but not the United States, fell far short of the condemnation of the W.H.O. that Mr. Trump issued in his letter Monday night. Officials at the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services did not respond to emails seeking comment.
Mr. Trump has railed against the W.H.O. for weeks as his own political and public health crisis at home has intensified, saying the organization is in the thrall of China, where the virus originated. In his letter Monday night, he said the W.H.O. was responsible for many deaths because it failed to challenge the version of events provided by Xi Jinping, the president of China, regarding the origin of the virus and its initial spread.
"As the source of the outbreak, China has a special responsibility to pay more and to give more," John Ullyot, a spokesman for Mr. Trump's National Security Council, said in a statement before the meeting.
[Source: By Michael D. Shear and Andrew Jacobs, The New York Times, Washington, 19May20]
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