Rather, intelligence reports suggest that the virus originated in a Wuhan market, as previously suspected. A Western diplomatic source told CNN that it was “highly unlikely that it was an accident”. The diplomat continued: “It is highly likely it was naturally occurring and that the human infection was from natural human and animal interaction.”
The official said that this had become the consensus opinion among leading western spies.
The Five Eyes alliance is made up of the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
The intelligence assessment appears to undermine the forceful claims of both the US president and his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the virus escaped from a Wuhan laboratory.
It will likely increase the pressure on the Trump administration to back up its allegations with hard evidence.
At a press briefing at the White House, the president told journalists that he had seen evidence that the coronavirus started in the Wuhan virology laboratory, but refused to reveal his sources.
Another source added that the lethal virus clearly “exploded” from the Wuhan food market, but how it got there still remained unclear.
And without greater cooperation from China, it would be impossible to say with total certainty.
Earlier on Monday, a state owned nationalist tabloid rebutted the allegations made by the US Secretary of State, saying the former CIA director had “stunned the world with groundless accusations”.
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In an editorial article, the newspaper said: “Since Pompeo said his claims are supported by ‘enormous evidence,’ then he should present this so-called evidence to the world, and especially to the American public who he continually tries to fool.
“The truth is that Pompeo does not have any evidence, and during Sunday’s interview, he was bluffing.”
Beijing has been accused of deliberately trying to cover up the scale of the coronavirus outbreak, when it first appeared.
But US critics also allege the Trump administration of using China as a scapegoat to cover up its inept handling of the crisis in the USA.
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Over one million Americans have been infected with the lethal virus, and more 68,000 have died.
The economy has crashed with some 30 million workers having been made redundant in the last six weeks.
Mike Pompeo told ABC news over the weekend that there was “enormous evidence” the coronavirus originated from a Wuhan laboratory.
Mr Pompeo also said that this was not the first time that Chinese lab failures had allowed a deadly virus to escape and endanger the world.
The Secretary of State told ABC news: “There’s enormous evidence that that’s where this began.
“We’ve said from the beginning that this was a virus that originated in Wuhan, China.
“We took a lot of grief for that from the outset.
“But I think the whole world can see now. Remember, China has a history of infecting the world, and they have a history of running substandard laboratories.”
He added: “These are not the first times that we’ve had a world exposed to viruses as a result of failures in a Chinese lab
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