LONDON (Reuters) - The British government has called on the European Union to ban live wild bird imports from anywhere in the world, after a parrot died in Britain of suspected bird flu while in quarantine.
Junior Environment Minister Ben Bradshaw said he expected support from European partners and that the ban could be imposed within days.
"This is actually something we've been considering for some time, before the death of the parrot. It just so happens that the formal request has been made now," Bradshaw told BBC Radio late on Saturday.
"My understanding is there would be considerable support throughout the EU for this," he said.
Britain holds the rotating presidency of the 25-nation bloc but decisions such as these rest with the bloc's executive, the European Commission.
"We haven't had an answer from them yet but given the current situation we expect it will be looked at urgently," said an official at Britain's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
The parrot had contracted bird flu but officials do not yet know if it was the lethal H5N1 strain that has sparked alarm in Europe in recent weeks.
Traces of the highly pathogenic H5 avian flu virus were found in the parrot, which was imported from Suriname and held in quarantine with other birds from Taiwan, the government said on Friday.
Britain's demand echoes a call from Germany.
Junior German Agriculture Minister Alexander Mueller told Reuters on Saturday the British parrot case showed the EU's existing ban on imports from only countries which have had cases of bird flu was not tight enough.