US intelligence in 'broad agreement' Covid-19 not bioweapon

US intelligence community in 'broad agreement' Covid-19 not developed as bioweapon
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Despite the 'broad agreement' Covid-19 was not developed as a bioweapon, the US intelligence community is still divided on the origins of the pathogen, which first broke out in China.
The US intelligence community remains split on coronavirus' origins [Getty-file photo]

The US intelligence community has reached "broad agreement" that the coronavirus was not developed as a bioweapon, and most US agencies assess with "low confidence" it was not genetically engineered, according to an unclassified summary of a report.

But the community remains divided on the pathogen's origins, with four agencies and the National Intelligence Council judging in favour of natural exposure to an animal as the likely explanation, one agency favouring the lab leak theory and three unable to reach a conclusion.

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"Variations in analytic views largely stem from differences in how agencies weigh intelligence reporting and scientific publications, and intelligence and scientific gaps," the summary said.

The intelligence community and global scientists lack clinical samples or epidemiological data from the earliest Covid-19 cases, it added.

For his part, President Joe Biden said China was withholding "critical information" on the origins of Covid-19.

"Critical information about the origins of this pandemic exists in the People's Republic of China, yet from the beginning, government officials in China have worked to prevent international investigators and members of the global public health community from accessing it", Biden said in a statement.

"To this day, the PRC continues to reject calls for transparency and withhold information, even as the toll of this pandemic continues to rise."

Biden said the United States would continue to work with allies to press Beijing to share more information and cooperate with the World Health Organization.

"We must have a full and transparent accounting of this global tragedy. Nothing less is acceptable," he said.

The US does not believe Chinese officials had foreknowledge of the virus before the initial outbreak of Covid-19 began.

However, China's embassy in Washington on Friday said the intelligence report "is not scientifically credible" and wrongly claims China is hindering a global investigation of the pandemic.

The US office of the director of national intelligence said it was reviewing de-classifying parts of the report in the near future, in light of the historic nature of the pandemic and importance of informing the public, all the while protecting its sources and methods.

(AFP, Reuters)