19 September 2003

"Situation with Opium Cultivation in Afghanistan Remains Difficult" Says UN Counter-Narcotics Chief

VIENNA, 19 September (UN Information Service)  --  "The situation with the opium cultivation in Afghanistan remains difficult, and this year, we again face a sizeable harvest," said Mr. Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). He was addressing the presidents of 12 member countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in Yalta, Ukraine today.

Drug trafficking from Afghanistan presents a serious threat not only to the health of the population, affected on a dramatic scale by an HIV/AIDS epidemic in the region, but also in terms of national security. Mr. Costa warned that the resulting "trilogy of problems," from drug addiction and HIV/AIDS epidemics to the use of resources generated through opium trafficking by organized crime and even terrorist groups, had the potential to destabilize the whole region.

He said the CIS region is one of the priority areas of UNODC activities. The Office is undertaking  a range of measures in countering the drug threat, assisting CIS countries in implementing their counter-narcotic programmes, and developing new initiatives against drug-related crime in the region.

Mr. Costa also discussed the increased UNODC cooperation with Russia and its neighbouring countries with Mr. Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation. Another meeting has been planned next month in Moscow to further discuss these activities.

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