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US Lifts Drug Trafficking Sanctions Against Haiti, Afghanistan

The Bush administration says it was waiving U.S. narcotics sanctions against Afghanistan and Haiti but keeping them in place against Burma. The decisions were announced Monday under a new approach to the U.S. government's annual drug-certification program.

The Bush administration says neither Afghanistan nor Haiti moved effectively against drug producers or traffickers last year, but it has nonetheless decided to continue U.S. aid to those countries, as a matter of U.S. national interest.

A 1986 act of Congress requires a cut-off of most forms of U.S. aid to major drug producing and transit countries if the President certifies they have failed to cooperate with U.S. anti-drug efforts.

But it also provides for waivers in cases where the President deems it to be in U.S. interests to continue aid despite a negative finding on a country's anti-drug performance.

Announcing the results of the latest annual review of compliance, Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Rand Beers said the administration was seeking a waiver for continued aid to Afghanistan, despite near-record Afghan opium production in 2001.

He stressed that the U.S. backed interim Afghan administration of Hamid Karzai was only in place for the final few weeks of 2001 and that its anti-drug efforts have yet to be judged.

"This is a judgement with respect to action that occurred in Afghanistan last year, during which the Taleban was the controlling authority or the battle for the future of Afghanistan was underway on Afghan territory," he said. "The Bonn declaration, the creation of the interim authority, all occurred at the end of the year. This is not a judgement with respect to the current administration in Afghanistan. It is a judgement with respect to the past."

Mr. Beers said the ousted Taleban leadership nominally banned poppy production but "did nothing" to diminish or discourage the drug trade.

The Karzai government has issued a similar decree and according to Mr. Beers has taken "important first steps" to curb opium output, though he described its efforts as "a work in progress."

In the case of Haiti, the official said while the government has not done enough in the anti-drug field, including cubs on money-laundering, it is important for the Caribbean nation, the poorest state in the hemisphere, to continue getting U.S. aid.

Burma was the third nation cited, among 23 drug-producing countries under review, for "demonstrably" failing to make adequate anti-drug efforts. But no waiver was extended to the Southeast Asian state, with which the United States has few official dealings and provides little direct assistance.

Mr. Beers said Burma is a major producer of both opium-based and synthetic drugs. "Large-scale poppy cultivation and opium production continue, and enormous quantities of methamphetamines an estimated 800 million tablets per year are produced in an trafficked from Burma, having serious adverse effects on neighboring countries and throughout the region," he said. "Its toleration of money laundering, its failure in 2001 to implement its counter-drugs laws, and its failure in 2001 to transfer notorious traffickers, for example Khun Sa, who are under indictment in the United States are all serious concerns."

Mr. Beers said Burma has taken some useful anti-drug steps but those were "far too limited" in duration and scope to constitute a meaningful effort to comply with U.S. standards.

In a change in approach, the administration report covered only the three countries found to be in substantial non-compliance with the U.S. law. What had been annual U-S ratings of the all the producer countries was considered a diplomatic irritant and the practice has been suspended.