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Britons plan more culling of livestock

LONDON — Britain on Thursday announced a massive pre-emptive cull of livestock exposed to foot-and-mouth disease, with 100,000 or more animals marked for destruction.

European countries continued to tighten border controls, and Portugal's Farm Minister Luis Capoulas Santos urged the European Union to ban all livestock movements within the 15-nation block for two weeks.

In Britain, all livestock within two miles of confirmed outbreaks in the northeastern county of Cumbria will be destroyed, Agriculture Minister Nick Brown told the House of Commons.

Sheep that may have been exposed to the disease at three markets will also be destroyed.

"This is a policy of safety first," Brown said. He held out hope that restrictions on livestock movements within disease-free areas could be significantly relaxed within 10 days.

Export bans of meat and livestock from the European Union have gone up across Asia, North America and Australia to prevent the spread of the outbreak, which began in Britain last month and has since spread to continental Europe with cases confirmed in France.

Russia and Austria announced bans on French meat Thursday. The Faeroe Islands, a Danish dependency in the North Atlantic, banned meat from Britain and France.

The swiftly spreading disease appeared in the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates reporting cases Wednesday. Argentina has also reported cases.

A U.S. ban on meat and livestock imports was expanded from Britain to the European Union after a case was confirmed in France on Tuesday, and the Agriculture Department heightened its alerts at international airports and seaports.

Britain has been trying to halt the outbreak with a widespread cull: Around 205,000 animals have already been destroyed or earmarked for slaughter. Meat exports have been suspended, and the government has severely restricted the movement of livestock within Britain.

Prime Minister Tony Blair's office said Wednesday that the pre-emptive cull could target 100,000 animals or more.

Britain confirmed nine more outbreaks of foot-and-mouth Thursday, raising the total to 240 since the first case was detected Feb. 20.

Prince Charles announced Wednesday that he was donating $750,000 to six farming charities that are helping distressed farmers. The Duke of Westminster, Britain's richest aristocrat, said later he would match the prince's gift.

"I want to do everything I can to help these farmers and their families to keep their heads above water," Charles said.

Foot-and-mouth disease strikes cloven-hoofed animals such as sheep, pigs and cows, either killing the animals or reducing their production of milk and meat. Though it poses no danger to humans, it is easily transmitted by people, the wind, or cars that have had contact with the disease. It can also be spread by contaminated hay, water and manure. Entire herds have been destroyed to prevent the spread of the disease.

On Wednesday, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Norway announced bans on imports of livestock and meat products from the 15-nation European Union. Japan, Estonia and Latvia have banned the import of livestock products from France. Belgium, Spain and Portugal shut their borders to French meat or livestock earlier in the week

Turkey on Wednesday quarantined three villages in the northwest and closed down a local livestock market after an outbreak of foot-and-mouth, the Anatolia news agency reported. It was not clear how many animals were infected, but Agriculture Minister Husnu Yusuf said the disease was "under control." Turkey has had food-and-mouth outbreaks in the past and vaccinates livestock to try to control the disease.

Cases of foot-and-mouth were also reported Thursday in six regions of Mongolia and in the former Soviet republic of Georgia to Russia's south. In Georgia, agriculture officials said small outbreaks occur every year, with about a dozen cases reported earlier this year.