20 May 2009

UNODC Executive Director Praises Iran's Drug Control Efforts, Calls for Greater International Support

VIENNA, 20 May (UN Information Service) - On a visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa, praised Iran for "holding back a flood of heroin". He said that Iran was "making a massive sacrifice" to stop the smuggling of drugs from Afghanistan to the West, and deserved "both the gratitude and the support of the international community". "The anti-narcotics police in Iran are among the best in the world", he said.

According to UNODC estimates, most of the opium going from Afghanistan to the West is smuggled via Iran. This amounts to approximately 2,500 tons of opium crossing Iran's borders every year. Mr. Costa lauded the Iranian authorities for seizing one-third of that amount.

To stem the flow, the Government of Iran has erected over 1,000 km series of embankments, canals, trenches, and cement walls along its eastern border. On visiting the border today, Mr. Costa praised Iran for its drug control efforts. "Most of the world's opium is produced in one country (Afghanistan). The more drugs that are seized near production areas, the less drugs will reach Western streets", he said. "This should be a shared responsibility, not only Iran's problem".

The head of UNODC also visited a memorial to the more than 3,700 border control officers who have died while defending the border against well-armed drug traffickers. More than 12,000 others have been injured. "These fallen police officers have given their lives to prevent drugs from poisoning the world, not just Iran", said Mr. Costa.

The UN's drugs chief met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Secretary-General of the Drug Control Headquarters and the Minister of Health.

During the meeting with Secretary-General Ahmadi Moghadam of the Iranian Drug Control Headquarters, Mr. Costa congratulated the Iranian drug control authorities for the record number of opium seizures made in the country. He also saluted them for the establishment of an information and intelligence centre against drug trafficking with Afghanistan and Pakistan. He commended the counter-narcotics and police forces of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan for carrying out the first-ever joint operation in March 2009 in the framework of an UNODC-brokered Triangular Initiative, which aims to enhance cross-border cooperation in counter-narcotics between those countries.

Iran suffers from one of the highest rates of drug dependence in the world, particularly opiates (heroin, opium, and morphine). Mr. Costa discussed with the Minister of Health efforts being made to prevent and treat drug addiction, as well as the spread of HIV (particularly through injecting drug use). He visited the Rebirth NGO in Tehran where he met with drug users who are taking advantage of the services offers to cope with addiction. "Iran has a major drugs problem, but it is taking the right steps to deal with it", said Mr. Costa.

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For further information, please contact:

Walter Kemp
Spokesman and Speechwriter, UNODC
Telephone: (+43-1) 26060-5629
Mobile: (+43-699) 1459-5629
Email: walter.kemp@unodc.org