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Briefs (right)

Bird Flu Found in a Dead
Swan in Scotland

By Sarah Lyall

A swan found dead in eastern Scotland has tested positive for the deadly strain of bird flu, government officials said, making it the first recorded case of the disease in a wild bird in Britain.

The bird, believed to be a native mute swan, was discovered eight days ago in the harbor at Cellardyke, a small coastal town in Fife, northeast of Edinburgh. Officials have established a 1.8-mile protection zone around the spot where it was found to prevent the movement of poultry in and out of the area.

Officials hastened to emphasize that although the swan had died from the virulent A(H5N1) strain of flu, there was no immediate danger to humans and no danger, at least yet, to the poultry supply. Although more than 100 people have died in other countries from bird flu, which is extremely deadly when passed on to humans, the victims had worked in close contact with birds or handled birds that had died from the flu.

Bird flu has been gradually making its way across Europe from Asia, where it first emerged. It has stricken birds in Germany, France, Denmark, Italy, Poland, Switzerland and Greece, but until now had not been reported in Britain. But Britain has been bracing itself. COBRA, the government’s emergency planning group, met Thursday morning in London with officials from the environment and health departments, the Scottish executive and the prime minister’s office to map out government contingency plans.

Russia’s Gazprom and Armenia Reach Gas Deal

By Andrew E. Kramer

In a settlement of the latest natural gas dispute in the former Soviet Union, Armenia will receive natural gas supplies from Russia at prices well below European averages until 2009. In exchange, it will surrender a small but crucial section of gas pipeline to Russia.

Armenia will pay $110 for each 1,000 cubic meters of gas, about half the European average but twice what the country pays now, the Russian monopoly Gazprom said in a statement on Thursday.

Gazprom in turn will buy a 24-mile section of pipe connecting Armenia to Iran, which other than Russia is the only plausible source of energy supplies in the region. Also under the deal Gazprom, through a joint venture, was granted a concession to build a larger second pipeline along this route.

In financial terms, the deal is considered small by the usual standards of the huge Gazprom, but it could have strategic importance as the company seeks to maintain its dominance in Eurasian natural gas trading. The gas sales will bring about $187 million annually. The pipeline route from Iran through Armenia that Gazprom now controls with its 24-mile section was sometimes discussed by energy analysts as a possible export corridor for Iranian gas to Europe.