Japan's Shigeru Omi, the World Health Organisation's regional director for Western Pacific, yesterday stepped up the race for the body's global leadership with a four-minute video shown to 150 health ministers attending a WHO summit in Auckland. Dr Omi, who in June took leave from his post to contest the November election for the WHO's director-general, is a major contender to succeed South Korea's Lee Jong-wook, who died in May, nearly three years into his five-year term. Twelve other candidates, including Hong Kong's former director of health Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun, are also vying for the post. 'It was neutral but it was an election gambit,' one amused delegate said yesterday of Dr Omi's video presentation. The 'movie' - as it was described by the chairman of the conference, New Zealand's Minister of Health Pete Hodgson - was shown after a speech by WHO acting director-general Anders Nordstrom of Sweden and before a report highlighting a year of achievement in the Western Pacific region. This report was presented by Richard Nesbit, the WHO's acting regional director for the Western Pacific. In the video, Dr Omi apologised for his absence from the conference 'for reasons beyond my control' and added that the past year had been 'a time of great activity' for the region. He said the conference would also be a 'time to renew our commitment to good health for all of the people in the Western Pacific region', which includes China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific islands and is home to 1.8 billion people. Earlier, Dr Nordstrom said the world had to remain vigilant for a flu pandemic. 'We see no signs today that such a threat is diminishing,' he said, adding that the WHO would launch an initiative next month to support the expansion of pandemic flu vaccine capacity. He said the budget for the Western Pacific region would rise by US$118 million to US$351 million for 2008-09 - accounting for 8.6 per cent of the global WHO budget of US$4.2 billion.