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Tuesday, 2 October, 2001, 17:06 GMT 18:06 UK
UK drugs trade 'funds Taleban'
Three quarters of the world's opium is produced in Afghanistan from poppy fields cultivated by farmers
Most of the world's opium is produced in Afghanistan
British people who take heroin are paying with their lives to finance the military activities of the Taleban regime, Tony Blair has said.

About 90% of heroin on British streets originates in Afghanistan, the prime minister told the Labour Party Conference on Tuesday.


The arms the Taleban are buying today are paid for by the lives of young British people buying their drugs on British streets

Tony Blair
In his keynote speech, Mr Blair denounced the Taleban regime as oppressing Afghan people and for using their drugs trade to finance their military activities.

His comments came amid fears that Europe and America will be flooded with cheap heroin by Afghanistan's Taleban rulers to fund further attacks, ahead of military strikes by America and its allies.

Drugs hoard

Mr Blair said: "It is a regime founded on fear and funded by the drugs trade.

"The biggest drugs hoard in the world is in Afghanistan controlled by the Taleban.

Tony Blair
Blair: Pledge to destroy Taleban regime's drugs trade
"Ninety per cent of the heroin on British streets originates in Afghanistan.

"The arms the Taleban are buying today are paid for by the lives of young British people buying their drugs on British streets.

"That is another part of their regime we should seek to destroy."

The prime minister put the country on war footing, suggesting that military action against the Taleban regime and Osama Bin Laden was now inevitable.

Downing Street warned earlier this week that stockpiles of raw opium grown in Afghanistan are being moved out of the region by Afghanistan's Taliban rulers in anticipation of military action against them.

20bn trade

An estimated 3,000 tonnes of the drug enough to produce heroin with a street value of 20bn is thought to be held by the region's drug lords.

A Downing Street spokesman has said that there had been evidence in recent weeks of a "sudden movement" of opium out of neighbouring Pakistan where it was being stockpiled.

Opium grown in Afghanistan is thought to account for the vast majority of the heroin reaching Britain and around 75% of the total supply worldwide.

It is smuggled through Turkey, the Balkans or Central Asia on its way to West European cities.

Bin Laden - named by Britain and America as the prime suspect behind the 11 September attacks - is also said to be closely involved in the Afghan drugs trade and has his own substantial stockpile of opium.

The Taleban last year banned the growing of opium poppies.

See also:

02 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Blair promises victory over terror
30 Sep 01 | South Asia
West fears heroin flood
31 Jan 01 | South Asia
Taleban outlaws poppy
14 Jun 00 | South Asia
The Taleban's drug dividend
16 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Record opium haul on Tajik border
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