HomeMEDIA RESOURCES20039 November - ORLANDO, Florida: PRESS COMMUNIQUE
9 November - ORLANDO, Florida: PRESS COMMUNIQUE
OPIUM PRODUCTION SOARS IN POST-TALEBAN AFGHANISTAN
Opium production has soared in Afghanistan since the Taleban were overthrown, a NATO parliamentary committee heard.
"In Autumn 2002 Afghanistan topped the list of opium producers," Mr Victor Voytenko (photograph on right), a member of the Russian Federation's Duma, told the Economics and Security Committee of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO-PA) on Saturday.
Mr Voytenko, who was presenting a report on the Danger of Narcotraffic from Afghanistan for the European Community, said United Nations drug experts and Afghanistan's own State Commission on drugs noted that areas given over to opium poppy cultivation had increased nine times over the 2001 level.
He said that there had been a particularly large increase in poppy cultivation in the north of the country of about 47 percent and in the provinces neighbouring Tadjikistan. The UN also estimates that there are about 400 drug laboratories in the country and that the trade is worth billions of dollars each year.
"The money from this trade finances terrorist and criminal gangs," he told the committee.
Calling for "belts of safety" to be set up around Afghanistan to disrupt the trade, the report stated that 70 percent of opium and almost 100 percent of heroine smuggled into Europe came from Afghanistan. Most comes through Russia and the rest passes through Iran, Pakistan and neighbouring states of Central Asia.
"Russia cannot cope alone with this problem. We need your help, we need the help of the EU and world community," Mr Voytenko told the committee.
The NATO-PA groups together parliamentarians from NATO's 19 member states along with 20 associate members, including Russia. It began its 49th Annual Session in Orlando, Florida on November 7. The five-day session is devoted to Iraq, Afghanistan, and the new security threats facing NATO.
The report said one of the factors worsening the drug-trafficking situation in Afghanistan is the involvement of the authorities and local army chiefs. Last February, the police chief of Nangarhar province, Khazarat Ali, was arrested for kidnapping and drug trafficking.
"It became known that the man used US helicopters given by the US command to combat terrorists and Taleban fighters for his own purposes and used them to transport large shipments of drugs to the north of the country from where they were smuggled to dealers in the neighbouring Central Asia states.
[Journalists interested in more information or obtaining a copy of the report should contact Mr Jonathan Clayton or Mr Keith Williams at the press service of the NATO PA on the following numbers: +1 407 685 6158 and +1 407 685 6159. E-mail: email@example.com]