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Britain Praises Afghanistan's Anti-Drug Efforts - 2004-03-05

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says Afghanistan is making a strong effort to combat drug production, amid reports of a massive surge in opium cultivation.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says the work done by the Afghan government and the international community in creating a safe and prosperous Afghanistan is crucial to rolling back drug production.

"The general work on security and on raising living standards will, of themselves, help to diminish the reliance of the Afghan economy and some Afghan people, poor people, on drugs," he said.

Cultivation of opium poppies was sharply curtailed during the reign of the hard-line Islamist Taleban rulers.

But opium production jumped dramatically after the Taleban were ousted in 2001. Recent U.N. and U.S. reports have named Afghanistan as the world's top opium growing nation.

Mr. Straw rejected comparisons between opium harvests before and after the fall of the Taleban, saying drug control is much more difficult, now that Afghanistan has become a democracy.

"It's bound to be more difficult than controlling drugs in a fascist state, where if you break any laws that the police don't like, you kill people," he said.

Mr. Straw says Afghanistan has become a better place to live since the end of the Taleban. He says human rights have improved, and people are better off economically.