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War on drugs must be Afghan top priority: UN chief

By Guttz, Feb 16, 2012 | |
  1. Guttz
    UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Thursday urged Afghanistan to make fighting drug trafficking a priority as opium harvests soar in the world's top producer, and said the world must help in the effort.

    "Above all, the Afghan government must prioritise the issue of narcotics," Ban said in his opening address in Vienna of a Paris Pact meeting to fight drug trafficking in Afghanistan.

    "Law enforcement agencies must work harder on eradicating crops, eliminating laboratories, keeping precursors from entering the country, and inhibiting drug trafficking," he urged.

    The head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Yury Fedotov, also urged Afghanistan "to make this a national priority and to develop shared responsibility across all branches of government".

    "Despite the continued efforts of the international community, the problem of illicit trafficking in opium and heroin remains a serious concern," he added.

    Afghanistan's top drug-buster, Minister of Counter Narcotics Zarar Ahmed Moqbel Osmani, agreed, saying the problem was due to "major insecurity in the provinces, poverty and big demand".

    Afghanistan grows about 90 percent of the world's opium and production of the drug soared last year by 61 percent, according to the UNODC. The drug trade now makes up about 15 percent of Afghanistan's gross domestic product.

    When the Paris Pact was set up in 2003 Afghanistan produced 3,400 tonnes of opium a year. UNODC estimated the production at 3,600 tonnes last year.

    Ban also warned that "reducing supply is only half the story. There can be no real success without reducing the demand".

    "We must stand with Afghanistan in this fight," he added.

    "Nothing would be worse than inaction," French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, the co-chair of the event, also said.

    "We need institutions that are efficient, transparent and democratic," he added.

    In a joint Vienna Declaration the participating states vowed their commitment to help Afghanistan, citing a "common and shared responsibility" and a need for "a global response, including addressing the demand and supply sides".

    "Efforts should focus on ... elaborating and implementing comprehensive regional programmes, to effictively counteract the challenges and threat of illicit traffic in opiates," the declaration added.

    "Enhancing the exchange of information on financial flows, linked to illicit traffic in opiates, including bank deposits investments... using the existing mechanisms to the fullest extent possible."

    The so-called Paris Pact coordinates efforts to fight opium and heroin trafficking from Afghanistan, with 56 states and a dozen international organisations signed up.

    "Without serious measures to destroy drug crops as it has been made for example in Columbia, we are going to fight symptoms rather than the disease itself," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, also co-chair of the event, said Thursday.

    He proposed setting up a fund "to be used for channelling confiscated proceeds from drug trafficking to UN programmes on combatting organised crime, corruption and drugs in Afghanistan".

    On the sidelines of the conference, Juppe and Lavrov also met to discuss a French proposal to set up aid corridors into Syria amid a bloody crackdown on anti-regime protestors but made no comments to the press afterwards.

    Russia stands as one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's last major friends, vetoing with China this month a Security Council resolution condemning the regime for the violence, despite a barrage of criticism.

    AFP – 16.2.2012 - 18:00


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