Merkel defends WHO during call with international leaders

Merkel defends WHO during call with international leaders
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the World Health Organization (WHO) during a leaders call of the Group of Seven (G-7) on Thursday, two days after President TrumpDonald John TrumpHR McMaster says president's policy to withdraw troops from Afghanistan is 'unwise' Cast of 'Parks and Rec' reunite for virtual town hall to address Wisconsin voters Biden says Trump should step down over coronavirus response MORE's decision to freeze U.S. funding for the global body in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

The funding pause was a point of contention on the call. The WHO has come under attack from Trump and his allies for what they view as providing cover for China in the early days of the outbreak and for opposing travel restrictions.

Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for the German government, said Merkel emphasized on the call that the pandemic requires a "strong and coordinated international response" and expressed "full support to the WHO" and other international partners.

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The comments amounted to a rebuke of Trump, who has spent the last two weeks deflecting blame toward the WHO for how it responded to the virus.

The White House readout of the call emphasized financial support given by the group to the WHO, as well as the criticisms Trump has directed toward the organization.

"The leaders recognized that the G7 nations annually contribute more than a billion dollars to the World Health Organization (WHO), and much of the conversation centered on the lack of transparency and chronic mismanagement of the pandemic by the WHO," the White House said in its readout. "The leaders called for a thorough review and reform process."

Trump announced Tuesday that his administration would halt funding to the WHO, an arm of the United Nations, pending a review of its handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. is the largest contributor to the WHO.

The president has railed against the WHO for opposing large-scale travel restrictions — one measure Trump has repeatedly claimed he used to great effect to protect the U.S. from the virus — and accused it of failing to quickly vet and share accurate information on COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

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The White House's decision has drawn swift rebukes from Democrats, public health experts and other world leaders who warn the middle of a global outbreak is not the time to pause funding for one of the few entities coordinating a worldwide response.

A spokesperson for French President Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronThe US is missing an opportunity in Lebanon Russia's aggression can and should cost Putin dearly Stationing US troops in Poland is a bad idea MORE said the country regretted Trump's decision. The foreign policy head of the European Union questioned the move on Twitter, saying that the WHO is "needed more than ever to help contain & mitigate the #coronavirus pandemic.”

The leaders on Thursday's call also discussed economic recovery plans amid the pandemic, according to the White House. Trump has eyed early May as a goal for reopening parts of the U.S. economy, which has seen unemployment skyrocket and businesses close due to social distancing measures implemented to combat the virus.

There are more than 2 million confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, with more than 640,000 in the U.S.