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UN Launches Campaign to Curb Narcotics Flow from Afghanistan - 2003-06-26

The United Nations' Vienna-based Office on Drugs and Crime has launched a program to provide financial aid to central Asian governments in a drive to curb the flood of narcotics from Afghanistan.

The United Nations says central Asian nations have become a hot spot for international heroin trafficking from the northern provinces of Afghanistan. It estimates that opium produced in Afghanistan has reached the same level as under the Taleban regime that was deposed by U.S.-led military action.

According to United Nations figures, Afghanistan accounts for around three-quarters of the world's illegal opium production. Central Asian states themselves are facing a dramatic increase in heroin abuse and the number of HIV/AIDS infections has soared, the United Nations says. Dagmar Thomas, the program manager at the United Nations working with the governments of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan as well as with law enforcement agencies in Afghanistan to tackle the problem said there are three main aspects to the program.

"One these projects are to improve the border control capacity between central Asian and Afghanistan borders,' she explained. "Number two is these projects are to improve drug enforcement in the countries. We need to find measures to strengthen inter-agency cooperation between, for example, police, customs, border control troops and dedicated drug control enforcement agencies.

"And number three is these projects also carry components that are to establish new forms of operational enforcement cooperation, cross-border-wise, between the central Asian countries and between the central Asian countries and Afghanistan," continued Ms. Thomas.

Ms. Thomas said the United Nations is financing a drug control agency in Kyrgyzstan and a new database to assist prosecutions in Uzbekistan. In Tajikistan, she said, the world body is providing equipment and training to customs and border control agencies.

The governments of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have also asked the United Nations for legal advice to enable them to use confiscated assets from drug traffickers in combating drug abuse in their own countries, similar to a program now under way in Iran.