22 August 2003

UN, Afghanistan Launch Drugs Interdiction Unit

VIENNA, 25 August (UN Information Service)  --  The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has just added another project to fight narcotics to its largely expanded portfolio of 20 projects -- worth US$38 million -- in the fight against illicit drugs in Afghanistan. Antonio Maria Costa, UNODC Executive Director, and Ali Ahmad Jalali, the Afghan Minister of Interior, signed an agreement in Kabul on Sunday to help establish a new drug interdiction department within the Ministry.

"This is only the latest step in continuous efforts to assist Afghanistan in creating conditions for effective drug control. Major progress has been made recently with the creation of a new Counter-Narcotics Directorate (CND) and the adoption of a National Drug Control Strategy. Now we need to increase international assistance to help the country strengthen its capacity to enforce the law and help Afghan farmers to develop a sustainable alternative livelihood," Mr. Costa said following the signing of the agreement.

During his week-long visit to Kabul and to some of the opium-producing provinces Mr. Costa is meeting top Afghan officials in order to assess ways UNODC can best contribute to their effort to counter narcotics.

In a meeting late Sunday in Kabul, Hamid Karzai, President of the Afghanistan Transitional Authority, reiterated his government's commitment to enforcing the drug control measures, including the eradication of opium poppy fields and the destruction of illicit drugs-processing laboratories. President Karzai and Mr. Costa agreed on the need for the international community -- including major development institutions -- to help Afghan farmers, not only to grow commercial crops, but also develop the infrastructure in the largely poor rural areas of the country.

UNODC projects in Afghanistan cover four major areas of drug control: monitoring -- with annual opium poppy surveys that, on the international level, provide the most reliable estimates of the cultivation trends in order to develop knowledge-based policies; prevention -- helping to develop the judicial system and law enforcement; demand reduction -- providing assistance in addressing the increasing internal drug abuse problem; and alternative development -- involving direct assistance to the communities dependent on opium cultivation.

Most recently, UNODC has assisted Afghanistan's Ministry of Justice to develop new drug control legislation. The Office is also working with the Counter-Narcotics Directorate in opening field offices in major opium-producing areas of the country.

During his visit to Kabul, Mr. Costa is also meeting Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdul Rahim Karimi, Minister of Justice, Hanif Atmer, Minister of Reconstruction and Rural Development, Soheila Sadiq, Minister of Public Health, as well as Dr. Zalmai Rassoul, National Security Advisor, Mirwais Yasini, General Director of CND, and General Helaluddin Helal, Deputy Minister of the Interior.

Before leaving Kabul for a visit to the provinces, Mr. Costa will meet with the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, Lakhdar Brahimi, as well as with the heads of all UN agencies involved in the country's reconstruction efforts. His programme in Kabul includes meetings with the ambassadors of countries supporting counter-narcotic projects in Afghanistan.

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