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Indonesia Wants Guarantee on Fair Use of Bird Flu Samples

Indonesia's health minister says the country wants a legal guarantee that bird flu samples it sends to the World Health Organization will not be used for commercial gain.

Siti Fadilah Supari says the guarantee is necessary because Indonesia's samples could be used by drug firms to make vaccines that would be too expensive for developing nations.

She says Indonesia wants a "Material Transfer Agreement" such as will be discussed at an international bird flu meeting later this month.

Jakarta announced last month that it would only share samples of the bird flu virus with parties who agree not to use them for profit.

The Associated Press reports that the WHO has sent a letter to Supari promising to use Indonesian samples for health risk assessment only.

Sixty-three people have died of bird flu in Indonesia - more than in any other country.

Scientists want to make a vaccine for the virus because they fear it could change into a form easily passed among humans, creating a global pandemic.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.