UN Agency Praises Iran's Effort to Combat Drug Trafficking

September 13, 2003 - 0:0
BRUSSELS -- A top UN official has paid tribute to Iran's efforts to combat drug trafficking from Afghanistan and appealed for help to the Afghan government to fight the scourge.

"I would like to pay tribute to what the Iranian government and authorities and soldiers and policemen are doing (in fighting drug trafficking)," Antonio Maria Costa, executive director, UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), told a press conference in Brussels Wednesday evening, IRNA reported. "We are familiar with the efforts of the entire community in the society in Iran is engaged in."

Iran shares with Afghanistan a border which is 1,800 kms and is very porous.

"The general assessment we provide and I heard that repeatedly over and over again by my senior politicians in Kabul is very favorable," Costa said in reply to IRNA's question over Iran's cooperation with UNODC.

Costa spoke to the press after addressing the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) at NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) Headquarters in Brussels on Opium Cultivation in Afghanistan.

He said 200 tons of drugs were seized in Iran in 2002 which is about 10 percent of that being smuggled through Iran.

The UN official, who returned recently from a mission to Afghanistan, where he met all top government representatives in Kabul, as well as governors, elders and military commanders in opium growing provinces, warned that a 'major drug power game is being played in Afghanistan' with the involvement of the warlords.

He said opium was grown in 74,000 hectares producing 3,400 tons of drugs in Afghanistan last year.

The revenues from the drugs that went to the farmers and drug traffickers were 2.5 billion dollars.

The International community, he pointed out, contributed only dlrs 1.3 billion to Afghanistan for development last year.

The revenue from drug trafficking feeds into terrorist activities, said the UN official.

He proposed that military involved in the operation 'Enduring Freedom' in Afghanistan should get involved in fighting drug trafficking. "I am not advocating that military force to be used against the farmers and the cultivation," he clarified, adding, "This is a domestic problem and has to be dealt by the government."

He praised the administration of Hamid Karzai for tackling the drug problem. "We have to help the government in establishing the foundations and law and order and provide alternative assistance to farmers."

Costa said he is to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin next week to discuss the social problems in Russia caused by narcotics smuggled from Afghanistan.