Saudi authorities get powder mail, not anthrax

RIYADH, Oct 27 (Reuters) - Saudi government establishments have received several envelopes containing white powder from abroad but they all tested negative for anthrax, an interior ministry official said on Wednesday.

"We have begun receiving since two days ago several envelopes containing white powder. They came from countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Indonesia and Europe," the ministry spokesman, who declined to be named, told Reuters.

"But we have analysed the contents and all that we received so far contained nothing," he said, adding that the envelopes had not been addressed to specific persons but to government ministries and administrations. He gave no futher details.

A Saudi health ministry official said there were no anthrax cases in the Gulf Arab state and that the kingdom had taken the necessary precautionary measures.

There have been several anthrax scares in the Gulf since the first cases of contamination appeared in the United States after the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington, but none have been substantiated.

In the United States, the death toll from anthrax sent through the post rose to three and nine other people have contracted the disease. At least 28 people have tested positive for anthrax exposure.