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DATE=5/18/99 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT NUMBER=2-249530 TITLE=W-H-O SMALLPOX (L-ONLY) BYLINE=LISA SCHLEIN DATELINE=GENEVA CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION SAYS THE SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY REMAINS DEEPLY DIVIDED OVER A PROPOSAL TO DESTROY THE REMAINING STOCKS OF THE SMALLPOX VIRUS, WHICH ARE CURRENTLY LOCKED UP IN HIGH SECURITY LABORATORIES IN THE UNITED STATES AND RUSSIA. LISA SCHLEIN REPORTS THAT THE 191 MEMBER WORLD HEALTH ASSEMBLY MEETING IN GENEVA IS EXPECTED TO VOTE ON THE ISSUE IN THE COMING DAYS. TEXT: THIS WILL BE THE THIRD TIME THE WORLD HEALTH ASSEMBLY WILL VOTE ON WHETHER TO DESTROY THE REMAINING STOCKS OF THE SMALLPOX VIRUS SINCE THE DISEASE WAS ERADICATED IN THE WILD, BACK IN 1980. ON TWO PREVIOUS OCCASIONS, THE VIRUS SAMPLES WERE GIVEN A REPRIEVE. AND, SCIENTISTS HERE IN GENEVA BELIEVE THAT THE ASSEMBLY IS LIKELY TO SIDESTEP THE ISSUE AGAIN THIS TIME, ADOPTING A COMPROMISE RESOLUTION CALLING FOR A DELAY IN THE DESTRUCTION OF THE SAMPLES. W-H-O ASSISTANT DIRECTOR-GENERAL, DAVID HEYMANN, SAYS SOME SCIENTISTS ARGUE LIVE VIRUS SHOULD BE KEPT TO DEVELOP A NEW VACCINE IN CASE THE DISEASE REAPPEARS. ON THE OTHER HAND, HE SAYS SOME GROUPS ARE AFRAID THE VIRUS MIGHT ESCAPE FROM THE LABORATORIES. ///HEYMANN ACT/// THEY ARE CONCERNED THAT THIS VIRUS COULD EITHER ESCAPE FROM THE LABORATORY WHERE IT'S CONTAINED, BECAUSE OF A BIO-TERRORIST ATTACK. OR THAT THESE VIRUSES HAVE NEVER BEEN CONSOLIDATED, AS HAS BEEN PROMISED BY ALL THE MINISTERS OF HEALTH. AS FAR AS W-H-O IS CONCERNED, WE HAVE NO REASON (TO BELIEVE), AND WE HAVE SEEN NO EVIDENCE THAT SHOWS, THAT THIS VIRUS IS ANYWHERE BUT IN THESE TWO LABORATORIES. ///END ACT/// DR. HEYMANN NOTES THAT BECAUSE THE GENETIC MAKEUP OF THE SMALLPOX VIRUS IS COMPLETELY KNOWN, MANY SCIENTISTS BELIEVE THAT A NEW VACCINE COULD BE DEVELOPED. HE SAYS THERE IS ALSO A GOOD ANIMAL MODEL AVAILABLE FROM THE MONKEY POX VIRUS. DR. HEYMANN SAYS THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION ITSELF TAKES NO POSITION ONE WAY OR ANOTHER ABOUT THE DESTRUCTION OF THE VIRUS. HE SAYS W-H-O WILL GO ALONG WITH WHATEVER THE 191-MEMBER ASSEMBLY DECIDES. ///REST OPT/// ///SECOND HEYMANN ACT/// A VOTE IS BINDING IS AS FAR AS THAT IS THE RESOLUTION. THE RESOLUTION WOULD BE PASSED BY VOTE. W-H-O IS NOT A POLICING AGENCY. SO W-H-O WILL NOT GO INTO A COUNTRY AND SAY "IF YOU DON'T DESTROY THIS VIRUS, THERE WILL BE A SANCTION." IT WILL BE UP TO THE COUNTRIES THEMSELVES TO DESTROY THE VIRUS. ///END ACT/// THE SMALLPOX VIRUS IS CURRENTLY STORED IN LABORATORIES IN RUSSIA AND THE UNITED STATES. BOTH GOVERNMENTS OPPOSE THE DESTRUCTION OF THE VIRUS. DR. HEYMANN ADMITS THAT BOTH COUNTRIES COULD REFUSE TO ABIDE BY A W-H-O RESOLUTION TO DESTROY THE VIRUS -- IF THEY CHOSE TO DO SO. (SIGNED) NEB/LS/PCF 18-May-99 1:55 PM EDT (1755 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .