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Biden rallies G7 leaders to probe Wuhan lab leak

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JOE Biden has made fresh call for an international investigation to establish whether COVID-19 leaked from a Chinese laboratory as he tried to rally G7 leaders to stand against autocracy.

  In a statement issued yesterday after three days of talks, the US president remarked that the lab leak should not be allowed to slide into oblivion by scheming of those who want to shield the truth from the world.

  Mr Biden said neither he nor US intelligence had reached a conclusion about the origins of COVID-19 but said he wanted to establish a bottom line for transparency to help prevent another pandemic.

  The leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and the United States called for the World Health Organisation to convene a a timely, transparent, expert-led, and science-based investigation into the origins of COVID-19, including China.

  Other leaders of the G7 played down the call, breaking up the summit without bridging major rifts over China.

  British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said it was unlikely coronavirus emerged from a lab, but added, “Clearly anyone sensible would want to keep an open mind on that.”

  For the French President, Emmanuel Macron, there was no discussion among leaders on the origins of the virus. He therefore dismissed the theory as a distraction from combating the disease.

  Mr Biden arrived in Cornwall seeking strong language condemning China’s human rights record and a more direct recognition of the struggle for influence between the West and Beijing.

  He explicitly framed an agreement to create a build back better green-infrastructure programme for developing countries as a competitor to China’s Belt and Road Initiative and demanded condemnation of China’s use of Uyghur Muslims as forced labour in clothes factories.

  But he faced significant pushback from European allies, especially Mr Macron, who did not want to portray the group as hostile to China.

  The final communique called on China to respect human rights in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, and separately condemned the use of forced labour in global supply chains, but made no reference to Uyghur prison labour.

  It also underscored the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait” rather than criticising China for aggressive behaviour.

  Mr Biden declared himself satisfied with the outcome of the talks. “We’re in a contest with autocrats and autocratic governments around the world as to whether or not democracies can compete with them in a rapidly changing 21st century,” he said.

  He added, “America’s back in the business of leading the world alongside nations who share our most deeply held values. I think we’ve made progress in re-establishing American credibility among our closest friends.”

  It will be recalled that the UK, US, Canada and EU in March announced a raft of sanctions against Chinese officials for human rights violations in Xinjiang.

  Rifts over China were already apparent long before the leaders arrived in Cornwall.

  Mr Johnson, who hosted the summit, initially proposed forging a semi-formal “D10” group of democracies with guest powers Australia, India, South Africa and South Korea in what critics called a thinly-veiled attempt to build an anti-China alliance.

  The idea was dropped following objections from France, Germany and Japan.

  Mr Biden committed the US to sharing 500 million coronavirus vaccines as part of the G7’s donation of more than one billion doses to low-income countries.

“This is going to be a constant project for a long time,” Mr Biden said of the global vaccination campaign, adding that he hoped the world could stamp out the pandemic in 2022 or 2023.

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