US actress-activist hails work done by Vietnam bear sanctuary

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Former Hollywood actress Ali MacGraw, now an animal-rights advocate, said she was impressed by the work being done at the Bear Rescue Center in northern Vietnam after her visit there.

Nhan Dan quoted her as saying that the center in Tam Dao near Hanoi, the country's only such facility, deserves to be honored worldwide.

It was built by the Animals Asia Foundation (AAF), a Hong Kong-based conservation group seeking to end cruelty and gain respect for animals in Asia, in 2005 but is under threat of being closed or relocated.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development informed the AAF about this last October after a meeting with the Ministry of Defense, which had complained that an expansion, approved by the government in 2009, would affect national defense work in the area.

But the AAF shot back saying it was "an issue of profit" and not "defense."

It accused Do Duc Tien, the director of the Tam Dao Park where the center is located, of lobbying the defense ministry to close it to make way for a proposed hotel by a company in which his daughter has invested.

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Tien has denied the accusation.

MacGraw said she believed that the Vietnamese government would keep the center open.

The final decision will be made by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

The center had 104 bears rescued from either bile farms or illegal wildlife traders. One animal died recently of cancer.

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