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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 October, 2003, 15:31 GMT
Opium 'threatens' Afghan future
Heroin poppy cultivation in Afghanistan
The government is taking measures to tackle the problem
Opium production in Afghanistan is on the rise and risks turning the country again into a "failed state" run by drug cartels, says the UN drug agency.

Production rose by six percent on last year, to around 3,600 metric tonnes, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime found.

Agency director Antonio Maria Costa said the country was at a crossroads and risked falling into the hands of "drug cartels or narco-terrorists".

Afghanistan is the world's leading producer of illicit opium.

Terrorists take a cut as well. The longer this happens, the greater the threat to security within the country and on its borders
Antonio Maria Costa
In its annual survey, the Vienna-based agency found that opium poppy was now being planted in 28 out of 32 provinces.

It found that though new measures by Hamid Karzai's administration had helped cut production in some traditional poppy growing areas, cultivation was rapidly spreading in new areas.

Afghan opium farmers and traffickers brought home about $2.3bn in 2003, said the report.

"Out of this drug chest, some provincial administrators and military commanders take a considerable share," said Mr Costa.

"The more they get used to this, the less likely it becomes that they will respect the law, be loyal to Kabul and support the legal economy.

"Terrorists take a cut as well. The longer this happens, the greater the threat to security within the country and on its borders."


Guards on the Afghan-Tajikistan border say they seized a tonne of narcotics in October, which is an eight-fold increase on the year before.

Tajikistan has become a critical export corridor from the Afghan poppy fields to the markets of Europe and the United States, says the BBC's Monica Whitlock who travelled to the region.

Afghan opium trade
Afghanistan provides around 75% of the world's opium output
Two-thirds of all opiate takers use drugs of Afghan origins
The 2003 harvest is the second highest recorded in Afghanistan since surveying began in 1994
She said narcotics are becoming a part of the landscape in Tajikistan with most households now affected by it.

Men and women works as carriers relaying tiny amounts for the middle men - some of those caught die in prisons forced to swallow the bags they smuggled - and local drug addiction is growing.

Mr Costa said he would like to see international military forces in Afghanistan do more to intercept traffickers and dismantle drug laboratories.

"Some countries believe that the military should not be involved in the destruction of trafficking," he said. "Other countries think otherwise.

"I believe that the war against terrorism, leaving aside addiction, will not be won unless we control the opium economy of Afghanistan".

Opium crop clouds Afghan recovery
22 Sep 03  |  Business
UN drugs chief visits Afghanistan
24 Aug 03  |  South Asia
Afghans seek relief in drugs
07 Aug 03  |  South Asia
Straw focuses on Afghan drugs trade
30 Jun 03  |  Politics
UN warns on opium fears
26 Feb 03  |  South Asia

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