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Drug Panel Criticizes Turkmenistan for Failing to Cooperate in Fight Against Trafficking - 2004-03-03

The International Narcotics Control Board has criticized Turkmenistan for failing to cooperate in the U.N. fight against drug trafficking. Turkmenistan is seen as a key transition point for opium from Afghanistan.

A U.N. spokesman, Christian Strohmann, said on Wednesday that Afghanistan has produced a bumper crop of opium poppy this year and that may lead to an increase in the consumption of heroin in western Europe as prices fall. Turkmenistan, he said, is a major transition point for opium from Afghanistan.

The International Narcotics Control Board said in its annual report Wednesday the 700-kilometer border between Afghanistan and Turkmenistan could become the weakest link in the chain of international drug control.

Mr. Strohmann said the Turkmen authorities are not co-operating with the Narcotics Board. "It is for a U.N. body or for a body affiliated to the United Nations unusually clearly phrased in the chapter on Turkmenistan that the international community is not tolerating this kind of indifference in this regard of joint international efforts in reducing drug production and drug trafficking," he said.

He said Turkmenistan is the only neighboring country of Afghanistan which is not taking part in any international drug interdiction operations.

A Narcotics Board official, Herbert Schaepe, said it's only a matter of time before volatile Iraq becomes a major transition point for drug traffickers.

"As it develops in all areas of the world where the central government is weak, where governmental structures are not functioning and the administration is not functioning," said Mr. Schaepe. "We know that, from experience, drug trafficking and drug abuse is then … it's only a question of time before it develops."

In its report, the Narcotics Board said drug addiction is tearing up the social fabric in many communities, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean, but also Europe, and called on governments to take action to improve employment opportunities and education, especially for the poor, the young and minorities.