US shut down G20 coronavirus statement over WHO backing: reports

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The U.S. reportedly shut down the publication of a statement by Group of 20 (G20) health ministers because it committed to strengthening the role of the embattled World Health Organization (WHO) as the coordinator of a global coronavirus response  -- even as it has been dogged by controversy for its alleged pro-China bias.

According to the U.K. Daily Telegraph, a communique backed by 19 nations including China called for a global response and backed the WHO -- but it was replaced by a short summary text on Sunday after U.S. objections.

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"We fully support and commit to further strengthen the WHO's mandate in coordinating the international fight against the pandemic," a clause in the original 52-page communique reportedly read. It also flagged concerns about a lack of funding for the WHO’s emergencies program.

According to The Guardian, the statement urged all donors to invest in the fund, saying “it is far more cost effective to invest in sustainable financing for country preparedness than to pay to the costs of responding to outbreaks”.

Sources told the Telegraph that for France and Germany, any rewording of the original communique was a "red line."

President Trump last week paused funding for the agency and announced an investigation, accusing the U.N. agency of “severely mismanaging and covering up” the spread of the virus in the first days of the crisis.

The organization has come under fire for repeating claims by Chinese officials that the virus could not be spread from person to person, and praising the country’s “transparency” and response to the virus.

Fox News first reported last week that there is increasing confidence in the U.S. government that the coronavirus likely escaped from a Wuhan laboratory, where it was being studied. Sources stress the virus was naturally occurring and not being engineered as any kind of bioweapon.

Additionally, the sources believe that the WHO was either complicit in the coverup or looked the other way.

Trump also flagged initial opposition to his travel ban from China as one reason for the pause.

"We have deep concerns over whether America's generosity has been put to the best use possible," Trump said in the Rose Garden last week.

WHO Director Tedros Ghebreyesus said the organization “regrets” the U.S. decision to pause funding: “When we are divided the virus exploits the cracks,” he said.

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The U.S. has been trying to rally support for its stance against the WHO, and appears to have had some success. On Thursday the White House announced that the leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) countries have called for a “thorough review and reform process” into the WHO.

The United States is the WHO's largest single donor, and the State Department had previously planned to provide the agency $893 million in the current two-year funding period.

Fox News' Bret Baier, Gillian Turner and Greg Headen contributed to this report.