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Monday, August 14th 2000 - 21:00 UTC
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Foot and mouth: Argentina blames Paraguay.

Argentine officially declared this weekend that the foot and mouth disease bout that appeared in the north of the country "was finished", and claimed that the origin was cattle smuggled from neighbouring Paraguay.

"We're acting with determination, avoiding that the yellow alert turns red", said Argentine Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Minister Antonio Berhongaray. "All possible precautions have been taken from the sanitary rifle to closing borders, cancelling sales to the United States and banning all livestock circulation to avoid any risks", added the official.

Mr. Berhongaray went on to say that Paraguay was to blame since they have several areas with foot and mouth disease but nevertheless claim to be free of the epizootic. "We met with them several times to tell them it was very serious what they were playing with, and we even sent experts and vaccines to help, but we all know that the border is very lax and permeable", said Berhongarary.

Argentine officials are travelling this week to the United States to explain the situation.Last midweek Argentina announced the sacrifice with the sanitary rifle of 3.200 head of cattle in the province of Formosa, following the discovery of foot and mouth antibodies in ten of them, meaning they had been in contact with infected animals.

Last Friday smaller rodeos totalling 600 head were sacrificed in Corrientes and Entre Ríos.

Last May Argentina was officially declared in Paris by the International Epizootic Office free of foot and mouth disease, opening all world markets to Argentine beef for the first time in over half a century.

In Washington the US Department of Agriculture, USDA, expressed optimism about the situation saying Argentina had reacted in a quick and professional manner and with the correct decisions. "Argentina was very fast in detecting animals with positive foot and mouth symptoms illegally introduced from Paraguay. This means controls are working", said Anna Cherry spokesperson for the USDA Animals and Plants Inspection Department.

Meantime Chile reacted by banning all beef imports from Paraguay and Uruguay adopted strict control measures in all cargo and passenger transit

Categories: Mercosur.

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