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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 February, 2004, 19:02 GMT
Forum targets Afghan drugs trade
Anti-drug poster in Kabul
The government is looking for $300m to use to fight the trade
Talks in Afghanistan aimed at tackling its illegal drug trade have focused on tougher methods of law enforcement.

The international summit in Kabul has also addressed reducing demand for heroin and how to persuade the farmers who grow the poppies to change crops.

Experts say Afghan poppies account for 90% of the heroin consumed in Europe and warn the problem is growing.

President Hamid Karzai will attend the meeting on Monday, but heavy snow delayed some international delegates.

Mr Karzai has banned opium poppy cultivation and trafficking but the drug industry is reported to have blossomed since the overthrow of the Taleban regime.

Nearly 7% of the Afghan population is said to now work in the opium trade, earning as much as Afghanistan receives in foreign aid.

The delegates from Afghanistan, international organisations like the United Nations and Western governments spent the first day of the two-day meeting with technical matters.

The BBC's Andrew North in Kabul says they discussed whether it was possible to reduce demand or develop "alternative livelihoods" for the farmers.

We run the risk of [an] opium economy undermining all that has been achieved in creating a democratic new Afghanistan
Antonio Maria Costa,
UN Office on Drugs and Crime

However he adds that they admitted that it would be difficult to find any crop to compete with the profits from opium which is why many put greater emphasis on law enforcement measures such as the forced eradication of poppy fields.

The Afghan government is seeking $300m in donations to fund a campaign aimed at reducing opium production by 70% within four years and cracking down on money laundering.

Britain, which helped to organise the drug summit, has contributed about $128m over three years to the campaign.

"This is not an issue one country can do on its own," said Mirwais Yasini, director general of Afghanistan's counter-narcotics department.

"We would like the whole international community to help us."

The stakes are high, with one official at the conference saying the country could go from being a "failed state" to a "narco-state" if the trade was not stopped.

Terror link

The executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa, has warned that the opium trade is helping to fund terrorism.

There was, he said, "mounting evidence of drug money being used to finance criminal activities, including terrorism".

"If we don't start translating counter-narcotics commitment into lower levels of production, we run the risk of [an] opium economy undermining all that has been achieved in creating a democratic new Afghanistan," he said.

He was scheduled to speak on Monday, but was one of those whose travel plans were delayed by the bad weather.

Graphic showing opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan

The BBC's Andrew North
"One more problem to deal with for a country already facing huge challenges"

Afghanistan's home-grown drug problem
07 Feb 04  |  South Asia
Opium crop clouds Afghan recovery
22 Sep 03  |  Business
Afghans seek relief in drugs
07 Aug 03  |  South Asia
UN warns on opium fears
26 Feb 03  |  South Asia

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