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Last Updated: Monday, 9 February, 2004, 10:26 GMT
Afghanistan plea in war on opium
Anti-drug poster in Kabul
The government is looking for $300m to use to fight the trade
Hamid Karzai has appealed for greater international support in tackling Afghanistan's growing drugs problem.

The Afghan president made the call as he officially opened an international summit in Kabul aimed at tackling Afghanistan's illegal drugs trade.

He said the drugs trade was damaging the country's economy, reputation and national security, and profits from the trade were funding terrorism.

Afghan poppies account for 90% of the heroin consumed in Europe.

'Alternative livelihoods'

Mr Karzai has banned opium poppy cultivation and trafficking but the drug industry is reported to have blossomed since the overthrow of the country's hardline former rulers, the Taleban.

He said that the government had not been successful in dealing with the drugs problem, and sought help from other countries.

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

The BBC's Andrew North in Kabul says Mr Karzai stressed the need for greater efforts to develop "alternative livelihoods" for poppy farmers.

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

Mr Karzai said poverty forced many farmers to keep growing poppies - a claim some drugs control experts dispute.

He also pointed to the growing use of heroin inside Afghanistan - a problem the country had not faced before.

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

They discussed whether it was possible to reduce demand or find alternative sources of income for the farmers.

However, 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.

Terror link

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.

Hamid Karzai addresses drugs conference in Kabul
We expect other countries of the world to help us in the struggle
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.

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.

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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