Israel declares United Nations has agreed to help Palestinians fight bird flu

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni appealed to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Friday for international assistance to help the Palestinians fight the recent outbreak of the deadly bird flu, Israel's Foreign Ministry said.

In response, Annan told Livni in their phone conversation that he would call on the World Health Organization to lend support to Palestinian agriculture and health officials in their fight against the flu, the Foreign Ministry statement said.

The appeal for aid came a day after Livni called World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz to express Israel's concern over the ability of the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority to stop the spread of the flu. Israel feared that without international involvement, the Palestinian Authority would not take the immediate steps needed to limit the flu's spread, Livni told Wolfowitz.

Bird flu was discovered in Israeli villages not far from the Gaza Strip last week. Almost 1 million birds have been culled in Israel. An outbreak of avian flu was disclosed in Gaza on Wednesday.

On Thursday, Israel's Defense Ministry granted permission for the Palestinians to bring poison into Gaza to cull infected chickens, security officials said.

The H5N1 virus has killed or forced the slaughter of tens of millions of chickens and ducks across Asia since 2003, and recently spread to Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

World health officials fear H5N1 could evolve into a virus that would easily be transmitted between people, potentially triggering a global pandemic, though there is no evidence that is happening.

About 100 people have died from the disease worldwide, after being directly infected by sick birds, reports the AP.


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