US secretary of state Mike Pompeo claims there is a “significant amount of evidence” that COVID-19 came from a laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
The comments, which echo those of Donald Trump three days ago, contradict a statement from US intelligence agencies this week saying COVID-19 did not appear to be man-made or genetically modified.
Neither President Trump nor his secretary of state have produced any evidence.
During an interview with ABC’s This Week, Mr Pompeo said: “There is a significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan.
“The best experts so far seem to think it was man-made. I have no reason to disbelieve that at this point.”
When the interviewer pointed out that this was not the conclusion of US intelligence agencies, Pompeo quickly backtracked: “I’ve seen what the intelligence community has said. I have no reason to believe that they’ve got it wrong.”
It comes after President Trump claimed he had seen evidence the virus originated in a Wuhan laboratory, but refused to give more detail.
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The conspiracy theory that the virus has been man-made has been promoted by anti-China activists and some supporters of President Trump, who have claimed it was developed in a Chinese government biological weapons laboratory.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology has dismissed the allegations and other US officials have downplayed their likelihood.
On Thursday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the clearing house for the web of US spy agencies, said it had ruled out the virus being man-made, but was still investigating the precise source of the global pandemic.
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US officials familiar with intelligence reporting and analysis have said for weeks that they do not believe Chinese scientists developed the virus in a government biological weapons lab.
They believe it was either introduced through human contact with animals at a meat market in the central city of Wuhan, or could have escaped from one of two Wuhan government laboratories believed to be conducting civilian research into possible biological hazards.