5 December 2003

Afghan Foreign Minister Meets UNOV Director-General; Counter-Narcotic Efforts Discussed

VIENNA, 5 December (UN Information Service) -- The Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, Abdullah Abdullah, has been discussing the situation of drug cultivation and production in his country with the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa, and government representatives at a meeting in Vienna today (Friday 5 December).

The meeting was an opportunity for representatives from governments supporting United Nations counter-narcotic activities in Afghanistan to hear about the situation in the country firsthand following the recently released UNODC Afghanistan Opium Survey 2003. The Survey estimated this year's production at 3,600 metric tons, an increase of 6 percent compared to last year's 3,400 tons. Speaking of counter-narcotic efforts in the country, Mr. Costa stressed the need to balance law enforcement efforts with the need for the international community to provide adequate resources to help rebuild the economy of Afghanistan.

Mr. Abdullah Abdullah, addressing the representatives of the countries helping in reconstruction and counter-narcotic efforts in Afghanistan, emphasized the importance of drug control efforts as an integral part of the process of rebuilding the country.

"Opium cultivation and trafficking have a major destabilizing potential and might hamper all other efforts. Therefore, we are looking forward to the donors conference in Kabul early next year, as an opportunity for the international community to send a clear message of support for Afghan people and a message of resolve against the enemies of peace," he said.

The international community is supporting Afghanistan's efforts in counter-narcotics and crime prevention through continued assistance such as training the Afghan National Army and the police force, providing alternative livelihoods for opium poppy growers, continuing to monitor opium production levels and through strengthening the criminal justice system.

* *** *