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Mayor Mel Lastman lashed out Thursday at the World Health Organization, telling CNN: "They don't know what they're talking about. I don't know who this group is, I never heard of them before. I'd never seen them before."

"Who did they talk to? They've never even been to Toronto. They're located somewhere in Geneva," a blustering Lastman said of the WHO advisory that said travellers should stay clear of the city hit by SARS.

"They haven't talked to us. They read the papers, and sometimes the papers exaggerate and that's what's happened right here."

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"I invite them, I want them to come to Toronto this weekend. I want them to see what we've been doing, like the CDC were here. . .that's the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta," he said, appearing to look over his notes.

"The United States are our direct neighbours and the CDC said Toronto is doing, you're a model for the world in what you're doing. Look, we had 1,500 people in quarantine at one time, we're down to 180. We haven't had one person get SARS in the last seven days. And if we go 20 days, we've beaten it."

But Lastman, at times looking befuddled, appeared unsure of his facts, saying he wasn't sure of the exact number of SARS cases in the city.

There hasn't been a new case found in Toronto - outside of health-care workers and the workers' close contacts - in 19 days.

Sixteen people have died in the Toronto area since the outbreak began.

Lastman was trying to undo some of the damage caused by front-page stories around the world regarding the WHO advisory.

"They [WHO]want to wait three weeks, in the meantime they're hurting Toronto badly.

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While being questioned by CNN, Mr. Lastman launched another tirade, saying the advisory will hurt tourism.

"We depend greatly on tourism. We get 22 million tourists a year. Our city is continuing, they're moving the way the always do. They're working, the malls are jammed but the hotels aren't doing much business and the restaurants aren't. We need the tourists and they're hurting us and to wait three weeks is ridiculous when they haven't even been here in the first place," Mr. Lastman said shaking his fist.

The famously outspoken mayor has been venting his spleen since the WHO advisory on Wednesday.

While politicians in general have been criticized for a lack of leadership on the SARS issue, Mr. Lastman was out of the public eye for several weeks for treatment of hepatitis.

"I've never been angrier in my life," an apoplectic Lastman said Wednesday following the warning.



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