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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 June, 2004, 02:20 GMT 03:20 UK
UN reports on Afghan drug problem
By Andrew North
BBC correspondent in Herat

Afghan farmer in a poppy field
Farmers say they are confused by government policy
The head of the UN drugs control agency is due to meet Afghan president Hamid Karzai amid rising concern about the growth in the country's drugs trade.

Antonio Maria Costa goes to Kabul after visiting north and western Afghanistan, where he has been assessing problems.

He has already warned the country faces a dangerous future if the drugs problem is not brought under control.

Mr Costa has been taking an in-depth look at the illegal industry that produces over 90% of Europe's heroin.

In the past week he has met regional military commanders, governors and police chiefs, and talked to Islamic leaders and poppy farmers in their fields.

'Little hope'

The message that has come back offers little hope.

Corruption is widespread. Police chiefs have said their forces are too weak and the traffickers too strong.

Farmers are confused about government policy.

That confusion is often wilful, but hardly surprising when some religious leaders admit giving conflicting messages about opium poppy - telling worshippers it is okay to grow it, as long as they do not use it themselves.

So Antonio Maria Costa comes to Kabul armed with information.

The question is, what will President Karzai do with it?

Some fear his government is reluctant to press the issue too strongly this year, at least before the elections planned for September.

If that is the case, the problem is at risk of becoming even worse.

Antonio Maria Costa, UN drugs control agency
"Things do not look too good"

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