WHO places Asia director on leave after accusations of bullying

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FILE PHOTO: A logo is pictured outside a building of the WHO in Geneva

GENEVA (Reuters) -A senior World Health Organization director has been placed on leave, a spokesperson confirmed on Tuesday, following staff accusations of bullying and other complaints.

"The Regional Director for the Western Pacific Region, Dr Takeshi Kasai, is on leave," a WHO official said in emailed comments, without giving details.

Two WHO sources confirmed to Reuters that the decision to place Kasai, a physician from Japan who has worked at the body for more than 15 years, on administrative leave was related to an ongoing investigation into various staff complaints.

Kasai was not immediately available for comment. An e-mail sent to the WHO Western Pacific office in Manila was forwarded to the headquarters in Geneva.

The Associated Press reported in January that the complaints included allegations of racist language and of sharing confidential vaccine data with Japan.

Kasai, who became the WHO regional director in February 2019, has previously acknowledged being "hard on staff" but rejected the other charges.

He is temporarily being replaced by the U.N. health agency's number 2, Zsuzsanna Jakab, the WHO official added.

(Reporting by Emma Farge, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien and Raju Gopalakrishnan)