10 September 2003

UN Drug Chief Urges NATO Forces to Tackle Trafficking

Opium Cultivation in Afghanistan Presents a Serious Security Challenge

VIENNA, 10 September (UN Information Service) -- "Continuing opium cultivation in Afghanistan threatens peace and security in the region, providing traffickers and terrorists with a major source of income," Mr. Antonio Maria Costa, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), told the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) at NATO headquarters in Brussels today.

Mr. Costa said in 2003, the opium cultivation in Afghanistan remained at approximately the same level as last year, with the decline in production in some of the traditional opium-growing provinces being counterbalanced by the cultivation spreading to some new areas of the country.

He praised President Hamid Karzai's Afghan Transitional Authority commitment towards fighting opium cultivation but said that the country needs greater international assistance in developing its law enforcement capacity and in providing opium growing farmers alternative means of livelihood.

Mr. Costa presented the Council with findings from his recent mission to Afghanistan last month, during which he held extensive consultations with top government officials in Kabul, as well as governors, tribal elders and military commanders in the provinces of Badakhshan and Nangarhar.

He reiterated the close relationship between opium trafficking and funding of terrorism and stressed the need to further strengthen the security belt around narco-trafficking in and around Afghanistan.

"I would like to encourage NATO forces engaged in Operation Enduring Freedom, to help disrupt trafficking routes and illegal drug processing labs, as an integral part of their efforts to create a secure environment for rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan," Mr. Costa said.

EAPC was established in 1997 as a multilateral forum for 19 NATO member states and 27 partner countries from Eastern and Central Europe to discuss political and security-related issues, in order to enhance their cooperation.

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