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Friday, 4 May, 2001, 01:09 GMT 02:09 UK
Brazil's president defends Aids drugs stance

The Brazilian president, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, has vigorously defended his country's practice of ignoring patents on anti-Aids drugs.

Speaking just days after the United States stepped up its threat of sanctions, Mr Cardoso said Brazil would not violate patents indiscriminately but would have no hesitations about doing so to protect public health.

Washington has complained to the World Trade Organisation about a Brazilian law which overrules international patents after three years, allowing the country to produce drugs locally at lower prices and dispense them for free.

Brazil's health officials say they have cut the Aids death-rate by up to two-thirds. They say the pharmaceutical industry exerts a disproportionate influence on the Bush administration.

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