Thursday, June 24, 1999 Published at 11:12 GMT 12:12 UK
World: Middle East
Drugs haul from Iranian camel caravan
Iran is a key point on the "Golden Crescent" drugs supply route
By Middle East Correspondent Jim Muir
Iranian troops have seized a camel caravan carrying two tonnes of drugs in a clash with smugglers near the border with Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to Iran's official news agency.
Lying on the so-called "Golden Crescent", Iran is a major route for drugs smuggled from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Europe and oil-rich Gulf Arab states.
The country's authorities pursue a running battle along the border to stem the flow of narcotics, and to curb their own growing drug problems.
Casualties of the drugs war
The battle against narcotics involves a high price.
More than 2,500 security officers have lost their lives in what military officials say amounts to full-scale war along Iran's eastern border.
"Most of my friends who were chief law enforcement personnel in the eastern part of the country have been martyred crashing in the planes, helicopters, reconnaissance planes," General Fellah says.
And the cost of combating the drugs menace does not stop there.
General Fellah believes that what cannot get past via the borders eventually finds its way through the country, which adds to the domestic drugs problem.
Iran's growing problem
Blocking the flow of drugs to the West appears to mean that some of the narcotics filter back inside Iranian society.
Large sums are being spent on propaganda and education campaigns. It is no longer a taboo subject - huge placards are displayed on busy Tehran streets, highlighting the evils of addiction.
Rehabilitation clinics are also available where addicts can seek treatment without fear of prosecution.
Iran's efforts to block the smuggling routes from the east have won high praise from international officials.
Between 80% and 85% of all opium and heroin that is seized in the entire world has been seized in Iran alone.
And Europe is benefiting from Iran's sacrifices, but for Iran, this is a costly war on two fronts - one along the border, the other within its own society.
Michael von der Schulenburg, former United Nations co-ordinator in Iran, says: "What we very much regret is that there is still so little international collaboration with Iran, although Iran fights a war also for Europe.
"And I think it deserves much more cooperation, much more understanding, in particular from European countries."