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Ex-Hong Kong Health Chief Favourite For WHO Top Job

Former Hong Kong health director Margaret Chan Tuesday emerged as favourite to become the new director-general of the World Health Organisation (WHO). //

The 60-year-old obstetrician, who led Hong Kong through the 2003 SARS crisis, topped a five-person shortlist of candidates released overnight ahead of a final round of voting in Geneva Wednesday.

Chan got 32 votes in the first round of voting Monday night, one more than Japan's Shigeru Omi while Mexico's Julio Frenk collected 30 votes.

The two other short-listed candidates to go forward to Wednesday's final vote from the original 11 candidates were Kuwait's Kazem Behbehani and Spain's Elena Salgado who each got 28 votes.

Chan joined the WHO where she has specialised in bird flu pandemic preparations after a controversial stint as Hong Kong health director during which her department was criticised for its slow initial response to the SARS outbreak.

China has enthusiastically thrown its weight behind Chan's candidacy.

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