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Wednesday, 14 March, 2001, 18:53 GMT
Mbeki rules out AIDS emergency

The South African president, Thabo Mbeki, has rejected appeals by the opposition and trade unions to declare AIDS and the HIV infection a national emergency.

The measure would have allowed the purchase and production of cheaper generic versions of drugs to tackle the infection, which affects more than four-million South Africans.

Mr Mbeki told parliament that the government had already passed legislation for this purpose.

The legislation is currently blocked by international pharmaceutical companies, which have taken legal action to contest the government's right to dismiss drug patents.

A BBC correspondent in Johannesburg says that if the companies lose their case, the government legislation will form the backbone of South Africa's fight against Aids/HIV.

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