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Thursday, 1 November, 2001, 11:36 GMT
Anthrax in Lithuania US embassy
Antibiotics
Embassy staff have been offered antibiotics
Lithuanian experts have confirmed that traces of anthrax were found in at least one postbag in the US embassy in Vilnius - the first case of its kind in Europe.

"Following tests, we can say with a 95, maybe even 98% certainty, that we found anthrax in at least in one of the five mailbags," said the head of the microbiology laboratory of the Lithuanian Public Health Centre, Kazimiera Rutiene.

She said mice injected with the suspect substance had died.

Five bags were delivered to health centre earlier this week as part of routine worldwide tests of mail sent to US embassies.

She said four of the bags were still being tested.

US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on Wednesday that the embassy post room had been sealed, and that antibiotics would be made available to any embassy employees who wanted it.

U-turn

It is understood that several workers dealing with mail at the embassy had been given antibiotics as a precaution even before the test results.

The bags would have passed through the State Department's mail system in the US, which is known to have been contaminated with anthrax.

The diplomatic pouch service to Lithuania was suspended on 24 October.

Outside the US, a case has been confirmed in Peru, but a scare in connection with a suspect package sent to an American businessmen in Kenya turned out to be a false alarm.

Ms Rutiene's announcement of the positive test results represents a dramatic U-turn.

Just 24 hours earlier she criticised the US embassy for "spreading panic" by saying that particles similar to anthrax spores had been found in the bags.

She said it had been confirmed only that they contained the bacterium bacillus cereus, which she described as harmless and "ubiquitous in nature".

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