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Monday, 28 February, 2000, 23:11 GMT
Afghan drug trade targeted
Opium harvest
Opium production is a way of life in some parts of Afghanistan
By Pam O'Toole

Afghanistan's six neighbours, along with the United States and Russia, have launched an initiative aimed at combating the increasing trafficking of drugs from Afghan territory.

High-level officials of the so-called Six-Plus-Two group have met in New York, to discuss ways of stepping up co-operation, following a recent United Nations report, which highlighted a sharp rise in opium production in Afghanistan last year.

It is the first time that the group, which usually concentrates on trying to find a solution to Afghanistan's twenty year conflict, has tackled the drugs issue.

It was the United States which proposed that the Six-Plus-Two group step up co-operation to combat drug trafficking, in direct response to the rising tide of drugs emanating from Afghanistan.

Several members of the group are already suffering the consequences of living next door to a country which now produces three-quarters of the world's opium.

Last week's United Nations report expressed concern that opium production, concentrated largely in areas controlled by the Taleban movement, was still increasing and spreading.

Rising addiction

It said trafficking by organised gangs was leaving neighbours like Iran and some Central Asian states struggling with the effects of rising drug addiction.

The Six-Plus-Two group have now agreed to convene a meeting of experts in Vienna in April to agree on concrete measures to improve regional co-operation in the fight against drugs.

Among the measures being proposed are improving the exchange of information, tightening up border controls and working with the UN on schemes to persuade impoverished Afghan farmers to abandon the opium poppy in favour of other less harmful crops.

But so far, it appears, the group hasn't reached a consensus on a controversial proposal to set up a security belt around Afghanistan to try to block the flow of illegal narcotics.

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See also:

11 Nov 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Central Asia's battle with drugs
23 Feb 00 |  South Asia
UN concerned over drugs in Asia
09 May 98 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Afghanistan's opium harvest
10 Sep 99 |  South Asia
Afghan opium crop 'largest recorded'
15 May 99 |  South Asia
Taleban destroy poppy crop
26 Jun 99 |  South Asia
Taleban wages anti-drugs war from air
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