13 October 2005 Edition

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International News in Brief

Asylum seekers left to die in the desert

The United Nations Secretary General has expressed concern about the plight of African migrants trying to cross from Morocco to Spain. Kofi Annan appealed to the Spanish and Moroccan Governments to deal with the situation humanely. He was speaking in response to a crisis in the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the North African coast. Hundreds of migrants tried to enter the enclaves in recent weeks. At least eleven were killed. Aid agency, Medecins Sans Frontieres has found over 800 migrants abandoned by Moroccan police in the Sahara desert without food or water.

Bird Flu in Europe claim

Romania has reported its first Bird Flu cases but it is unclear if the strain found in the Danube Delta is the deadly H5N1 virus which has hit parts of Asia. Scientists in Bucharest discovered flu antibodies in three domestic ducks last month.

As officials from 80 countries and the UN met to plan a global approach to any pandemic, US President George Bush met chief executives of pharmaceutical firms to urge them to speed up efforts to produce a Bird Flu vaccine.

Drug manufacturers have been reluctant to spend time and money producing flu vaccines as they have to be re-worked each year to keep up with new strains. The H5N1 avian influenza virus has so far killed millions of birds across Asia and infected 116 people, killing 60 of them.

Guantanamo Hunger strike

The International Committee of the Red Cross says it is worried about a hunger strike by detainees at the US detention camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. The US military says 28 prisoners are on hunger strike. But lawyers for some of the detainees say as many as 200 have refused food. In a rare public statement about the organisation's concerns, a spokesperson for the committee, Antonella Notario, described the situation as serious. Lawyers have also accused camp officials of force-feeding inmates.

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