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Thursday, 19 October, 2000, 18:54 GMT 19:54 UK
Afghanistan 'threat' to central Asia
Opium field
Afghanistan is said to produce 75% of the world's opium
Afghanistan has been accused of being the main source of instability in Central Asia by experts attending an international conference on drugs and security in the region.

Speaking at the meeting, which is being held in Uzbekistan, the United Nations Under-Secretary General, Pino Arlacchi, said Afghanistan produced 75% of the world's opium.

Map of central Asia
He said the trafficking of narcotics and associated criminal activity posed a corrosive challenge to the governments of the region.

More than 60 countries and 40 international bodies are at the gathering which has been organised by the UN and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Regional difficulties

Mr Arlacchi - who is also the executive director of the UN's drug control agency - blamed Afghanistan for the mounting instability in central Asia.

"The spread of drugs from Afghanistan and other types of criminal and terrorist actions... give rise to great difficulties for the region", he said.

Mr Arlacchi called on the regional governments to help fight drug smuggling, particularly Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, which share a border with Afghanistan.

The spread of drugs from Afghanistan and other types of criminal and terrorist actions... give rise to great difficulties for the region

Pino Arlacchi, UN Under-Secretary General

He also said that it was the international community's duty to support the measures.

The region's leaders have long warned that Afghanistan is a source of instability and have made numerous appeals for the international community to take action.

The foreign minister of Kazakhstan, Erlan Idrisov, said Afghan-trained militias were carrying out armed incursions to protect drug-trafficking routes and spread Islamic extremism through central Asia.

International help

Earlier this year, the UN threatened further sanctions against the ruling Taleban for, among other things, the continued production of opium.

In July, the Taleban leader, Mullah Omar, issued an edict banning the cultivation of poppies.

But a UN report published in September suggests that Afghanistan is still the biggest opium-producer in the world.

The Taleban argue that Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world and farmers need international assistance to switch to other crops.

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See also:

01 Oct 00 | South Asia
West funds anti-opium fungus
22 Sep 00 | South Asia
Taleban poppy plea
09 Aug 00 | South Asia
Afghan poppy ban spurs prices
28 Jul 00 | South Asia
Taleban bans poppy farming
14 Jun 00 | South Asia
The Taleban's drug dividend
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