Indonesia has ordered a US military research unit in Jakarta to close by the end of the month, a move that would greatly weaken efforts to control avian flu outbreaks across the country, reports an article published in Nature this week (8 December).
The research unit, set up in 1970 under a bilateral agreement between the two countries, has been working with the Indonesian authorities to improve the monitoring and diagnosis of avian flu cases.
The centre's original agreement with Indonesia expired in January 2000, but the authorities have ignored its continued operation until now.
On 23 November, the Indonesian Health Ministry posted a memo addressed to all health agencies and hospitals, stating that the centre's activities must end by 31 December 2005.
Scientists working at the centre suspect that internal government politics in Indonesia are responsible for the closure.
They point out they were promised US$10 million in extra funding by the US health secretary in mid-October and that only a week before the memo appeared, one of the Indonesian president's chief advisers had privately assured them the centre would be allowed to continue operating.
Indonesia reported its first human case of avian flu in July, and accounts for the world's largest share of recent cases of human avian flu.
Reference: Nature 438, 719 (2005)