Official: UN bird flu center to be launched

A UN crisis management center to coordinate international efforts against the spread of bird flu will be opened within a month, a top official with the US Agriculture Department said Monday. The center at the Rome-base Food and Agriculture Organization will dispatch response teams to countries where bird flu is detected in animals and will channel aid, experts and equipment to areas where they are most needed, said Ron DeHaven, administrator of USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The department, together with the US Agency for International Development, has allocated US $4.2 million to help get the center going. The Americans were urging other countries to pitch in, DeHaven said after talks with UN officials and government representatives from around the globe. It will take eight months for the center to be fully operational, employing 40-50 people and with a projected 3-year budget of US $28 million, DeHaven said.