The Indonesian Health Minister has said the United States and the World Health Organisation are part of a global conspiracy to profit from the spread of bird flu and the US may use samples to produce biological weapons.
The views of Dr Siti Fadilah Supari, outlined in her new book, threaten to undermine efforts to control the spread of avian influenza. With 104 deaths, nearly half the world total, Indonesia is the new hotspot for the virus.
Despite claims by the minister that she has agreed to share virus samples and allow all nations access to resulting vaccines, Indonesia is still blocking sharing samples from human victims.
Applications to send more than 200 samples from chickens to an Australian laboratory had also been refused, inquiries by the Herald have revealed.
In the book, Dr Supari writes that WHO laboratories forwarded influenza viruses to Western companies so they could profit by selling vaccines back to developing countries: "The system of world health management has been very exploitative. It has been controlled by inhumanly desires, based on the greediness to raise capital and to control the world."
Some Indonesian samples had been sent to a US Defence Department laboratory, Dr Supari says, adding that "some of our seed viruses had been in a laboratory known as a facility developing biological weapons in a superpower country".
Privately, officials said Dr Supari's belief that she was engaged on a God-driven crusade against an evil and "neo-colonialist" world health system - on the book's cover she describes herself as the "divine hand behind avian influenza" - had caused her to lose touch with reality.
The President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, appears to have endorsed the book, having written its introduction.
Dr Yudhoyono supports Dr Supari's claim that the virus is under control in Indonesia, stating the "occurrence rate and the number of affected areas are decreasing".
The WHO declined to comment and no US officials were available. (Sydney Morning Herald, 2.20.2008, Mark Forbes Herald Correspondent in Jakarta) http://www.smh.com.au/news/world/indonesia-accuses-us-of-bird-flu-plot/2008/02/19/1203190823829.html