U.S. top diplomat meets with WHO chief, backs study into COVID-19 origins

FILE PHOTO: Secretary of State Antony Blinken virtual meeting with Canadian Foreign Minister Marc Garneau
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with the head of the World Health Organization on Wednesday and affirmed U.S. support for the global health body's plans to conduct additional studies into the origins of COVID-19, including in China.

Earlier this month, the WHO called for all countries to work together to investigate the origins of the coronavirus that caused COVID-19. China has rejected plans for more checks on labs and markets in its territory.

Blinken met with WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in Kuwait City and discussed the plans for further study of the origin of the pandemic, the State Department said.

"He stressed the need for the next phase to be timely, evidence-based, transparent, expert-led, and free from interference," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.

The first human cases of COVID-19 were reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019. China has repeatedly dismissed theories that the virus leaked from one of its laboratories.

(Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Eric Beech and Grant McCool)

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