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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 May, 2003, 15:13 GMT 16:13 UK
Fighting the Afghan heroin trade

By Hugh Schofield in Paris

Government ministers from more than 50 countries are meeting in Paris for a two-day conference aimed at combating the trade in heroin and other poppy derivatives from Afghanistan.

Heroin manufacturer
Production has surged since the end of the Taleban regime
Afghanistan has seen a big increase in poppy cultivation since the fall of the Taleban at the end of 2001, and experts say it will be many years before production can be brought down.

The task of the conference is to focus more on the supply routes and importing countries, to work out ways of stopping smuggling and suppressing demand.

Delegates will be told that with new routes opening up, Afghan opium, morphine and heroin are now flooding into Europe and Asia.

Tackling traffickers

Plans for this conference were drawn up a year ago, as part of international efforts to promote the rebuilding of post-Taleban Afghanistan.

Poppy field
Afghan farmers have few alternative cash crops

Today, more than 3 million people in the country are estimated to live off poppy cultivation, and the amount produced has shot up in the last year to nearly 3,500 tonnes.

With the help of Britain, the Afghan Government is drawing up a long-term strategy for weaning farmers off the drug.

With drug-use stabilising in Western Europe, the big worry is the increase in consumption in countries lining the supply routes in Eastern and Southern Europe, Russia and Central Asia.

The conference will call for tougher action by governments against traffickers, who use the vast sums at their disposal to suborn police and customs forces.

"Countries must know that the international community is watching them," said a French official. "The cost of inaction is borne by everyone."

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26 Feb 03  |  South Asia
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05 Nov 02  |  South Asia

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