WHO chief blasts Pompeo for 'untrue and unacceptable' comments that agency director 'bought' by China

'COVID politics should be quarantined, and I’m appealing again to all nations to work together'

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The World Health Organization (WHO) director-general pushed back against remarks made by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Thursday, after he alleged that the agency’s chief had been “bought” by China.

Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called the allegations made by Pompeo that appeared in U.K. reporting “untrue and unacceptable.” Tedros said the WHO was committed to “saving lives” and condemned remarks reportedly made during a closed-door session this week in London.

“The comments are untrue and unacceptable, and without any foundation for that matter,” Tedros said to reporters in Geneva Thursday. “If there is one thing that really matters to us and which should matter to the entire international community, it’s saving lives. And WHO will not be distracted by these comments.”

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The Telegraph first reported Pompeo’s remarks Tuesday night, saying that Tedros had been “bought” by the Chinese government and the outcome had resulted in “dead Britons” following the outbreak of the coronavirus.

President Trump has been highly critical of the WHO throughout the pandemic, saying that the organization is “very China-centric” and threatened to pull U.S. funding.

The U.S. submitted a formal notice of withdrawal to the U.N. earlier this month, after Trump submitted a letter to Tedros in May demanding that the WHO “commit to major substantive improvements” – though he did not specify what those improvements needed to be.

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The Trump administration is bound by U.S. legislation drafted in 1948 that requires the U.S. to pay out any remaining pledges along with one-year notice prior to leaving the WHO.

The U.S. has a reported $99 million in pledges still owed, which Pompeo has said the U.S. is committed to seeing through.

Several U.S. lawmakers were frustrated by the decision to pull out of the WHO during the worst pandemic in recent history, calling the decision “chaotic & incoherent.”

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“One of the greatest threats we face continues to be the politicization of the pandemic. COVID-19 does not respect borders, ideologies or political parties,” Tedros said Thursday. “I have said it many times: COVID politics should be quarantined, and I’m appealing again to all nations to work together. Politics and partisanship have made things worse.”

The State Department could not be immediately reached for comment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.