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Germany

Berlin Steps Up Warning on Poultry Imports from Turkey

The German government on Monday issued a warning against importing poultry from Turkey, saying it would take the "strongest measures" against anybody breaching a European Union ban.

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Controls are getting stricter on imports and people coming from affected countries

"Whoever illegally imports products from the regions affected by bird flu will be behaving in an irresponsible and negligent manner. We will implement the strongest measures against people who try," Agriculture Minister Horst Seehofer said in a statement.

He said "very strict" controls were in place at Germany's borders to check for poultry coming from Turkey, where 14 people have tested positive for bird flu and two of them have died, and other affected countries.

The government stepped up border controls in August and the European Union in October issued a ban on imports of live birds, poultry and poultry products from Turkey, which remains in place.

Horst Seehofer soll Agrarminister werden

Horst Seehofer is looking at ways to tighten controls

Seehofer (photo) said the federal government would in the coming days look at further tightening controls in several German states.

Germany has a Turkish population of some 2.5 million people and Turkey is a popular tourist destination for Germans.

A spokesman for the agriculture ministry warned German tourists not to visit poultry markets in Turkey and to avoid contact with animals in that country in general.

Anger, fears in Turkey grow

Meanwhile in Turkey, an angry crowd on Monday mobbed Turkey's health minister in the remote eastern town of Dogubeyazit, home of the country's first bird flu deaths, as Ankara reported more human cases of the lethal disease, raising alarms over its menacing westward advance.

Some 100 people were awaiting test results, including 10 from Istanbul, the country's business hub on the doorstep of Europe, where the presence of the disease among poultry has already been confirmed, officials said.

Vogelgrippe Türkei

Tow boys handle poultry without gloves in Turkey

Turkish laboratories determined that five more people had contracted the potentially lethal H5N1 strain of the virus, officials said, raising the total number of human cases in the country to 14, all but one of them children and teenagers, including two siblings already dead.

Four of the new cases were from three northern provinces, confirming that the virus is steadily advancing from remote, rural eastern areas to the more urbanized west, with three H5N1 carriers already hospitalized in the capital Ankara.

Tourism threatened

The crisis unnerved Turkey's tourism industry, a vital source of revenue, with hoteliers fearing the virus may jump to the Mediterranean coast, home to posh resorts that welcome millions of foreigners each year.

Fischerboote im Hafen von Alanya, Türkei

Turkey's tourist industry is worried

"The situation is alarming to the tourism industry," Osman Ayik, head of a hoteliers' association in the Mediterranean province of Antalya, said.

Russia and Britain, whose tourists are among the most frequent visitors of Turkish seaside resorts, have already advised their citizens against travelling to Turkey.

The European Union sought to bolster its defences, announcing new import bans on six countries surrounding Turkey as its experts assessed the situation in the worst-hit areas in the east together with a World Health Organization (WHO) team.

A brother and sister from Dogubeyazit, near the border with Iran, died last week, becoming the first victims of the virus outside Southeast Asia and China, where more than 70 people have perished since 2003.

Lack of knowledge

Most of the infected patients have come from impoverished rural areas, where people breed poultry in their homes and often take them indoors during the winter, providing ideal conditions for contamination.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan pleaded with citizens to hand over sick birds for slaughter amid reports that many are hiding their poultry, reluctant to part with what are often their sole livelihoods.

Many in the mainly Kurdish east are also illiterate and do not speak Turkish, further complicating efforts to raise their awareness.

Adding a political twist to the crisis, an angry crowd mobbed and booed Health Minister Recep Akdag as he visited Dogubeyazit, accusing the government of neglecting them because they are Kurds. Surrounded by a phalanx of policemen, Akdag promised the town a new hospital and more experts to enlighten residents about the disease.

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