WASHINGTON: US President Biden has ordered US intelligence agencies to investigate the origins of the Coronavirus pandemic in China as a way to prevent future pandemics, the media reported.
While making it clear that the agencies had not reached consensus on how the virus originated, Biden on Wednesday directed the agencies to "redouble their efforts" and report back in 90 days, the New York Times reported on Thursday.
In a statement, Biden said he had received the intelligence officials' report on the virus's origins, before asking for "additional follow-up". The intelligence community had "coalesced around two likely scenarios," he said, but they had not definitively answered the question, the NYT said.
"Here is their current position: While two elements in the IC (intelligence community) leans toward the former scenario and one leans more toward the latter — each with low or moderate confidence — the majority of elements do not believe there is sufficient information to assess one to be more likely than the other," Biden said.
Biden's statement indicates that his administration takes seriously the possibility that it was accidentally leaked from a lab, as well as the prevailing theory that it was transmitted to humans by an animal.
The statement follows top health officials' renewed appeals this week for a more rigorous investigation; and after growing criticism of an international team's report dismissing the possibility of Covid's accidental escape from a Chinese laboratory, the NYT said.
The White House had earlier downplayed the need for an investigation led by the US and insisted that the World Health Organization (WHO) was the proper place for an international inquiry.
"What has changed is, he wants to give another 90 days to dig a little deeper, to double down — the IC to double down their efforts," Karine Jean-Pierre, the deputy White House press secretary, was quoted as saying.
"The WHO doing their thing and the IC doing what they're doing currently is not mutually exclusive," Jean-Pierre said.
A joint WHO-China inquiry, whose findings were released in March, dismissed as "extremely unlikely" the possibility that the virus had emerged accidentally from a laboratory.
The theory was further drowned by some scientists' accounts of its likely path from an animal host to humans in a natural setting, the report said. (IANS)