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Wednesday, 23 February, 2000, 14:36 GMT
UN concerned over drugs in Asia

men in poppy field
Afghanistan is the world's largest opium producer

The United Nations has voiced grave concern at Afghanistan's growing role as a key producer of drugs in Asia and the impact that is having on the region.

In its annual report, the UN's International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) said Afghanistan, which is responsible for 75% of the world's opium production, is doing little to tackle the problem.

The commitment of the Taleban to ban opium poppy cultivation remains questionable
UN report
"The commitment of the Taleban in Afghanistan to ban opium poppy cultivation and heroin manufacture remains questionable," said the report, noting that the Taleban even collects taxes on the crop.

According to the report, 1999 saw a 40% increase in the amount of land being used to cultivate illegal opium poppies.

Success in Pakistan

In contrast, the INCB said, heroin manufacture had virtually disappeared from neighbouring Pakistan, having moved to Afghanistan.

man in poppy field The battle against drugs is hampered by lack of money
INCB member Chinmay Chakravarty told a conference in Delhi to launch the report that Afghanistan produced 4,600 tonnes of opium last year, which could be made into 460 tonnes of heroin.

The INCB said it was concerned about the "grave situation, which negatively affects not only west Asia but also Europe and the rest of the world.

It called on the world community to act.

Rising drug abuse

The report said that one of the most worrying consequences of drug production in South Asia was the rapid rise in drug abuse in the region.

INCB member Renate Ehmer told the Delhi conference that the use of heroin and amphetamine-type drugs, largely produced by China, is growing rapidly.

We believe there are over four million drug users in the region
Renate Ehmer, INCB
"We believe that there are over four million drug users in the region," she said.

The INCB warned that the increase of heroin abuse by injection and subsequent sharing of hypodermic needles had contributed to a surge in the incidence of HIV/AIDS in South Asia.

Overall, it said, the battle against drugs was still being hampered by lack of money.

But despite this, it noted that major reductions of opium production were recorded in Pakistan, Burma, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.

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See also:
10 Sep 99 |  South Asia
Afghan opium crop 'largest recorded'
26 Jun 99 |  South Asia
Taleban wages anti-drugs war from air
15 May 99 |  South Asia
Taleban destroy poppy crop
09 May 98 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Afghanistan's opium harvest

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