Indonesia could not afford mass slaughter of chickens

Indonesia's president said Monday the country could not afford the mass slaughter of chickens in bird flu-infected areas, but that he hoped the World Bank would be able to fund a culling program in the future.

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's remarks come ahead of a visit by a top EU health official to discuss ways to boost the country's fight against bird flu.

International experts say culling healthy birds close to the site of infected flocks is the best way to contain the spread of the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus.

"There is a problem with mass culling ... that is money," Yudhoyono said.

Outbreaks of H5N1 have left poultry flocks devastated across Asia since 2003 and jumped to humans, killing at least 64, with five confirmed deaths in Indonesia since July.

Tests are also being carried out on samples taken from several other people who died showing symptoms of the disease.

Yudhoyono said he had "talked to the head of the World Bank ... about a possible solution" to the funding problem. "At the moment we are counting how much money we need," he said.

Later Monday, Markos Kyprianou, the EU commissioner for health and consumer protection, was due to arrive in Jakarta for talks with government ministers that will focus on strengthening Indonesia's surveillance and control capabilities, an EU statement said.

Kyprianou's two-day visit wraps up a tour of Southeast Asia, the statement said, reports the AP. I.L.

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