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JAKARTA, Indonesia — The Indonesian government has banned the U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit No. 2, or NAMRU-2 — which is studying infectious diseases in Southeast Asia, including bird flu — from operating in the country, an evening newspaper said Thursday. The reason behind the ban was not immediately clear.
Sinar Harapan daily reported that a note on the ban, signed by Triono Soendoro, director of the Health Research and Development Agency of the Health Ministry, had been circulated among several ministries.
"It [NAMRU-2] has been banned to operate here. Sorry, but I can't comment further," the newspaper quoted Soendoro as saying.
Health Ministry spokesman Soemardi also refused to confirm the report.
"I haven't received any information about that," he told Kyodo News.
The ban follows the publication of a book by Health Minister Siti Rahil Fadilah Supari, in which she accused the World Health Organization and the U.S. government of trying to profit from the spread of bird flu. NAMRU-2 began investigating the disease after initial cases were identified in Indonesia in 2004.
In the book, "It's Time for the World to Change," Supari claimed WHO laboratories forward avian influenza specimens to western countries that make vaccines and then profit from their sale back to the affected countries.
As of Tuesday, bird flu had infected at least 379 people in 14 countries since its re-emergence in December 2003. According to WHO data, 239 of them have died.
Indonesia leads the table with 107 deaths, followed by Vietnam with 52 and Egypt with 21.
The other affected countries are Azerbaijan, Cambodia, China, Djibouti, Iraq, Laos, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Thailand and Turkey.
The NAMRU-2 Detachment was established in Indonesia in 1970 and is one of the most advanced facilities of its kind in Southeast Asia. Its work was done in cooperation with and under the auspices of the Indonesian Health Research and Development Agency.