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DATE=5/24/99 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT NUMBER=2-249720 TITLE=W-H-O / SMALLPOX (L ONLY) BYLINE=GORDON MARTIN DATELINE=GENEVA CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: THE 191-NATION WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION -- NEARING THE END OF ITS ANNUAL POLICY-MAKING ASSEMBLY -- HAS DECIDED TO RETAIN STOCKS OF THE DEADLY SMALLPOX VIRUS. GORDON MARTIN REPORTS FROM GENEVA. TEXT: THE DECISION MONDAY OVERTURNS AN EARLIER W-H-O RULING THAT THE WORLD'S KNOWN STOCKS OF SMALLPOX VIRUS SHOULD BE DESTROYED, AND REFLECTS FEARS BY THE UNITED STATES AND SOME OTHER COUNTRIES THAT DESTRUCTION OF THE VIRUS NOW WOULD BE PREMATURE AND EVEN DANGEROUS. W-H-O DECLARED IN 1980 THAT SMALLPOX -- FOR CENTURIES ONE OF THE WORLD'S MOST FEARED KILLER DISEASES -- HAD BEEN WIPED OUT BY AN INTENSIVE VACCINATION CAMPAIGN. REMAINING STOCKS OF THE DEADLY VIRUS WERE MOVED TO TWO HIGH-SECURITY STORAGE LABORATORIES -- ONE IN ATLANTA GEORGIA IN THE UNITES STATES AND THE OTHER IN THE REMOTE SIBERIAN REGION OF RUSSIA. W-H-O MEMBER NATIONS VOTED THREE YEARS AGO TO HAVE THESE STOCKS DESTROYED ON JUNE 30TH OF THIS YEAR. BUT SINCE THEN, A NUMBER OF COUNTRIES -- INCLUDING THE UNITED STATES AND RUSSIA -- HAVE HAD SECOND THOUGHTS. PRESIDENT CLINTON SAID LAST MONTH THAT THE UNITED STATES WOULD SEEK A DELAY IN THE DESTRUCTION OF THE SMALLPOX VIRUS. HE SAID THE VIRUS STOCKS MIGHT BE NEEDED TO FIGHT THE DISEASE IF IT SOMEHOW MADE A COMEBACK OR IF SOME UNDETECTED BATCHES FELL INTO THE HANDS OF TERRORISTS. U-S HEALTH SECRETARY DONNA SHALALA SAID LAST WEEK IN GENEVA IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO BE 100 PERCENT SURE THAT THE KNOWN STOCKS OF SMALLPOX VIRUS ARE REALLY THE ONLY ONES IN THE WORLD. SHE SAID THE SAFE THING TO DO IS TO DELAY THE DESTRUCTION. THE NEW W-H-O RESOLUTION -- APPROVED UNANIMOUSLY ON MONDAY -- MAKES CLEAR THAT RETENTION OF THE SMALLPOX VIRUS STOCKS IS ONLY TEMPORARY. IT SETS A NEW DEADLINE OF THE YEAR 2002 FOR THEIR DESTRUCTION, SUBJECT TO ANNUAL REVIEW. THE RESOLUTION ALSO STRESSES THAT THE PURPOSE OF THE DELAY IS TO ALLOW FURTHER INTERNATIONAL RESEARCH INTO ANTI-VIRAL AGENTS AND IMPROVED SMALLPOX VACCINES. IT SAYS ALL SUCH RESEARCH MUST BE CARRIED OUT IN AN OPEN MANNER, ONLY WITH THE AGREEMENT AND UNDER THE CONTROL OF THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION. (SIGNED) NEB/GM/JWH 24-May-99 11:57 AM EDT (1557 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .