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    8 July 1999

    Middle Eastern Leaders Say Cooperating to Fight Crime And Illicit Drugs Would Boost Peace


    VIENNA, 8 July (UN Information Service) -- Israeli and Palestinian leaders have agreed in separate talks with UN Under-Secretary-General Pino Arlacchi, Executive Director of the Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP), that cooperating to fight drug abuse and organized crime would significantly contribute to the peace process.

    During the first leg of his official visit to the Middle East, from 4 to 7 July, Mr. Arlacchi met initially with Israeli President Ezer Weizman, Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister David Levy, Shimon Peres, Israel's newly appointed Minister for Regional Cooperation and subsequently with Yasser Arafat, President of the Palestinian National Authority, as well as senior officials of the Palestinian Authority.

    Officials from both parties agreed that transnational crime and the drug problem can only be tackled at the regional level, with successes in combating these problems by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority leading to progress and stability in the entire Middle East.

    "Drug trafficking and crime are problems that know no boundaries. We therefore have to work together in the Middle East to counter this threat to the welfare of our societies," Mr. Arlacchi said in a meeting with Mr. Arafat on 7 July.

    During his meetings with officials from the Palestinian Authority, Mr. Arlacchi expressed strong support for its efforts to set up a functioning drug control system. The recently established Inter-ministerial Committee on Drug Control testified to the "determination of the Palestinian leadership in this regard," he said.

    He pledged to substantially increase ODCCP assistance to the Palestinian Authority to combat drugs and crime in the area. Through a three-year project, the ODCCP is currently providing equipment and training for the Palestinian drug police, setting up drug abuse prevention and treatment centres and helping the Palestinian Authority draft and harmonize drug control laws.

    In his meetings with Israeli officials, Mr. Arlacchi praised the country's successes in fighting crime and illicit drugs and particularly welcomed its efforts to reduce drug abuse among youth. He discussed the need for regional cooperation in combatting illicit drugs and organized crime at length with Mr. Peres.

    Israel's Attorney-General, Elyakim Rubinstein, and other top officials of the Justice Ministry reviewed with Mr. Arlacchi the country's efforts in combating money laundering. The Israeli authorities said they had set up a task force and were preparing a bill -- which could be adopted in the autumn session of Israeli parliament -- to tackle this problem.

    While in Israel, the ODCCP Executive Director also spoke to the International Conference on Migration, Culture and Crime in Ma'ale Hahamisha about illegal migrant smuggling. "Bad governance and repression push migration. The international community still lacks a system to deal with these problems. This lack has created a large and profitable illegal market for the smuggling of migrants," he noted.

    On 8 July, Mr. Arlacchi left for Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt to continue his discussions with top officials in the region. He is expected to return to Vienna on 14 July.

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