|US involved in bird flu conspiracy: Indonesia
Broadcasting Corporation | February 20, 2008
PETER CAVE: Indonesiaís Health Minister has suggested that the United States may be involved in a conspiracy to use the bird flu virus to develop biological weapons.
The extraordinary allegation is included in a new book, endorsed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, which describes Indonesiaís fight to assert its ownership of its virulent strains of avian influenza.
Concerns over that issue prompted Indonesia last year to stop sharing virus samples with the World Health Organization as Jakarta correspondent Geoff Thompson reports.
GEOFF THOMPSON: No country in the world has been hit by bird flu like Indonesia. Already this year 11 people have died and ten of those were from Jakarta or surrounding areas.
Indonesiaís uniquely virulent strain of H5N1 gave the country "bargaining power" according to Indonesiaís Health Minister Dr Siti Fadilah Supari, in her new book called "Itís Time for the World to Change" and strangely subtitled "The Divine Hand Behind Avian Influenza".
Itís this bargaining power which led Dr Supari in late 2006 to stop sharing Indonesiaís strains of bird flu with World Health Organization laboratories because of fears that any vaccines developed would then be sold for profit to developing countries with no benefit to Indonesia.
In essence, Indonesia sought to retain the "virus rights" and any profits to be made from its bird flu problem.
Back then on AM, Dr Supari effectively accused Australia of stealing Indonesiaís strain of H5N1 to make bird flu vaccines.
SITI FADILAH SUPARI: I never, I never give permission to send sample to the, send a specimen of the virus to Australia.
GEOFF THOMPSON: Now in her book Dr Supari has revealed, the full scope of the conspiracy she believes she is up against. "Developed countries become richer", she writes, "because they have the capability to develop the vaccine and control the world".
Dr Supari expresses alarm at WHO laboratories sharing bird flu virus data with the United States national laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico, where nuclear weapons are developed.
"Whether they use is it to make vaccine or develop chemical weapons, would depend on the need and interest of the US Government. It is indeed a very dangerous situation for the destiny of humanity", she writes and goes on to say ".. it is a matter of choice whether to use the material for vaccines or biological weapon development".
Despite the clear implication contained in her book, last night Dr Supari told the ABC, she didnít intend to accuse the United States of being interested in turning H5N1 into a biological weapon.
SITI FADILAH SUPARI: I didnít know whether our virus will be develop into a vaccine or will be develop into a biological weapon. So just a question - I didnít blame United States, I didnít blame any country.
PETER CAVE: Indonesiaís Health Minister, Dr Siti Fadilah Supari, speaking there to Indonesia correspondent Geoff Thompson.