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WHO withdraws Robert Mugabe goodwill ambassador role

The head of the World Health Organisation has withdrawn his appointment of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe as a "goodwill ambassador".

WHO director-general Tedros Ghebreyesus said he decided to rescind his appointment of Mr Mugabe, 93, after listening to the flood of outrage and concerns voiced by international leaders and health experts.

He said he revoked Mr Mugabe's position in the best interests of the WHO.

Mr Ghebreyesus said he had consulted with the Zimbabwe government about his decision.

Mr Ghebreyesus last week told a conference in Uruguay on non-communicable diseases that Mr Mugabe had agreed to be a "goodwill ambassador" on the issue.

But he said in a statement on Sunday that he had "reflected" over the past few days on the criticism of the decision. "As a result I have decided to rescind the appointment," he said.

Mr Mugabe, the world's oldest head of state, has been criticised at home for going overseas for medical treatment as Zimbabwe's once-prosperous economy falls apart and the country's healthcare system deteriorates.

Mr Mugabe also faces US sanctions over his government's human rights abuses.

AP

Zimbabwe's government says it respects the decision by Mr Ghebreyesus to withdraw the appointment.

Foreign affairs minister Walter Mzembi said the UN health agency "benefited tremendously" from the original decision to name Mr Mugabe to the post because of the global attention that resulted.

"On a name-recognition scale this name beats them all, but it is our business to protect its brand equity from unnecessary besmirching," said Mr Mzembi.

"So on the balance, it is wiser to let go."

The decision to name Mr Mugabe was met with shock and condemned by health officials and countries including the US.

AP

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