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The World Health Organization (WHO) logo is pictured at the entrance of its headquarters in Geneva, January 25, 2015. REUTERS/Pierre Albouy

(reuters_tickers)

GENEVA (Reuters) - The list of candidates to lead the World Health Organization (WHO) and rebuild its battered reputation after its slow response to West Africa's deadly Ebola outbreak was whittled down to three on Wednesday, with a final choice due in May.

The U.N. agency said those left in the running were Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, medical doctor David Nabarro who served as U.N. envoy on Ebola, and Sania Nishtar, the Pakistani founder of a health think tank Heartfelt who served one year as a federal minister.

The next WHO chief will replace Margaret Chan, who took over its reins 10 years ago and came under fire for the agency's sluggish reaction to the Ebola epidemic, which spread across one of the world's poorest regions, killing thousands of people.

Chan's second five-year term ends on June 30.

The final choice is to be made by the World Health Assembly, the annual ministerial gathering of WHO's 194 member states held from May 22-31.

Some public health policy experts called for a leader with political experience to revive the WHO's international standing and bring in funding for flagship programmes.

"International organisations like WHO have lost lots of luster," Lawrence Gostin, professor of global health law at Georgetown University Law School, told Reuters. "WHO was wounded very badly with Ebola and now even with its new emergencies programme is under-funded. It should be easy to fund."

"That is why somebody who has a lot of political stature has to direct it," he said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Richard Lough)

Reuters