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Thursday, 26 September, 2002, 09:34 GMT 10:34 UK
New heroin threat to Europe
Illegal drugs
Much of Europe's heroin comes from Afghanistan
A huge increase in Afghan opium production has raised fears of a new influx of heroin into European cities.

Latest estimates suggest that poppy cultivation has increased by up to 1,400% since the removal of the Taleban regime at the end of last year.


The international community must fulfil its commitment to help rebuild Afghan society

Roger Howard, Drugscope chief executive
A warning of the renewed threat will be delivered to an international conference on drugs in Paris on Thursday.

The message to the conference, organised by the British charity Drugscope, will be that international efforts to clamp down on the main source of Europe's heroin are failing.

"The expected large rise in Afghan opium production is a major concern," said Roger Howard, chief executive of Drugscope.

"If we are to stop the return to full-scale opium production, the international community must fulfil its commitment to help rebuild Afghan society, giving communities and individuals another option.

A Taleban soldier guards poppy field
The Taleban deemed narcotics "un-Islamic"
"Enforcement on its own is not the solution."

Drugscope says heroin production in Afghanistan is likely to climb this year to between 1,900 and 2,700 tons.

This compares with a figure of just 185 tons in 2001, following the ban on opium cultivation introduced by the former Taleban regime.

That resulted in a 95% drop in production.

Drugscope acknowledges that cultivation of the opium poppy remains well short of the levels that existed before the Taleban imposed its ban, but says it has now resumed at significant levels.

This makes it unlikely there will be any decline in heroin availability in Europe in the immediate future.

Lack of equipment

Delegates to the Paris conference will hear that the Afghan authorities are beset with problems in trying to counter the problem.

These include:

  • poorly trained and equipped staff

  • damaged buildings in poor condition

  • no operational police equipment

  • lack of communications equipment

  • lack of transport facilities

  • absence of scientific support or a basic narcotic test

  • lack of intelligence systems

Earlier this year, UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw announced that almost a third of the country's poppy fields had been destroyed.

But a BBC investigation in July found there was little evidence that the crops were being eradicated.

Heroin
Production is on the rise again
About 90% of the heroin sold in the UK originates in Afghanistan.

A military commander told the BBC that better eradication required an agreed plan, with alternative job opportunities offered to encourage farmers away from the lucrative cultivation of poppies.

Farmers said they realised the dangers posed by heroin, but the economic situation left them no choice.

Opium poppies have a financial yield per hectare of more than 10 times that of other crops such as wheat.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Fergus Walsh
"Today Hamid Karsai was talking tough"
Harry Shapiro, Drugscope charity
"(Afghanistan) is in a very unstable situation"
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25 Jul 02 | South Asia
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