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    Indonesia seeks Russian help in fight against bird flu - minister

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    Indonesia, which accounts for over 40% of the worldwide human death toll from avian influenza, hopes for Russia's assistance in the fight against the disease, an Indonesian minister said Tuesday.

    NUSA DUA (Indonesia), September 11 (RIA Novosti) - Indonesia, which accounts for over 40% of the worldwide human death toll from avian influenza, hopes for Russia's assistance in the fight against the disease, an Indonesian minister said Tuesday.

    "Indonesia needs to cooperate with all interested countries in this sphere, including Russia," Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Aburizal Bakrie said at the opening of the international conference Key Partners on Avian Influenza and Pandemic Preparedness, which opened Tuesday in Jimbaran, in Bali.

    Since 2003, when bird flu first hit countries in Asia, international experts feared the virus could mutate into a form that spread easily among people, sparking a global pandemic.

    "We know of interesting work done by Russian doctors in the sphere of vaccines development, and Indonesia would be grateful if Russia shared its experience," the minister said.

    Russia completed the first phase of clinical trials for a human vaccine against the H5N1 bird flu virus in late March. Researchers said they had developed vaccine production techniques and commercial production could be started immediately in the event of a pandemic.

    Speaking at the opening of the two-day conference, which addresses priorities in the fight against bird flu in 2007-2008, Bakrie said that at the moment Indonesia had registered 106 human bird flu cases, 85 of them fatal.

    Last Thursday, an Indonesian farmer died in the Sumatra province after slaughtering an infected chicken, bringing the number of people killed by H5N1 virus worldwide to 200.

    The world's fourth most populous country, which was struck by a devastating tsunami in December 2004, Indonesia is one of the most popular venues for international tourists, and bird flu cases may jeopardize the country's tourism industry and economy.

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