May 22, 2006

WHO Chief Lee Dies after Blood Clot on Brain

GENEVA (Reuters) - The head of the World Health Organization, Lee Jong-wook of South Korea, died on Monday after suffering a blood clot on the brain, the United Nations agency said.

Lee was 61 and had been WHO director-general since 2003.

"I am sorry to tell you that Dr. Lee Jong-wook, director-general of the WHO, died this morning," Spain's Health Minister Elena Salgado told the opening session of the agency's annual assembly.

Lee underwent an operation on Saturday to remove a blood clot on his brain at the Cantonal Hospital of Geneva. He had been taken ill suddenly in the afternoon.

Before taking over as its head, he had worked for the health agency at country and regional level and at the Geneva headquarters for 23 years.

The five-day annual assembly was immediately suspended for 30 minutes following the announcement. It is set to discuss the global reaction to the threat of bird flu, whether or not to destroy the world's remaining stocks of smallpox and Taiwan's long-standing bid to win observership.