SALT LAKE CITY — A group of Republican senators, including Utah’s Mitt Romney, called for an independent review of the World Health Organization’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The senators want the United Nations to immediately form a panel of experts to assess the WHO’s response, particularly the health organization’s interactions with the Chinese government from the start of the outbreak and beyond. The panel also is to come up with recommendations for reform.

Romney said in a tweet that the WHO appears to have shown “remarkable” deference to the Chinese government throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Restoring confidence in the WHO as the premier U.N. global health agency committed to sound, scientifically based global health principles and practices will require greater transparency, accountability and reform,” the senators wrote in a letter to U.N. Secretary General António Guterres on Friday.

President Donald Trump has criticized the health agency for being too lenient on China, where the novel coronavirus first emerged late last year.

Last week, the president suspended payments to the global health body pending a review of its response to the coronavirus pandemic. The United States is the WHO’s largest single donor, contributing between $400 million and $500 million annually to the Geneva-based agency in recent years.

The letter, led by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch, R-Idaho, says the U.S. and countries around the world depend upon the WHO as a source of reliable, independent and scientifically based information about public health challenges.

“Given the unprecedented nature of this pandemic, getting this right is now more important than ever,” the letter says.