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Discovery of Possible Drug Labs Leads to Clean Up in Conakry

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, along with INTERPOL and the government of Guinea, recently discovered four sites where they believe drugs such as heroin, cocaine and ecstasy could have been processed and manufactured in Conakry. These groups say they are concerned that the production of clandestine drugs in Guinea might be widespread.

After the discovery of large amounts of chemicals at four different sites in Conakry, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime's Representative for West and Central Africa, Antonio Mazzitelli, says there is a new level of concern about the power of drug trafficking in West Africa.

"The capacity has been developed-the capacity of both processing narcotics like cocaine and heroin, and manufacturing psychotropic substances such as ecstasy and methaqualone," he said.

Mazzitelli adds that although the capacity was there, the United Nations cannot state for certain the chemicals were used to manufacture drugs.

"If processing had taken place, we cannot state it, because no drug was seized with the chemical," he said.

The fact-finding mission occurred after the government of Guinea asked the international community for its support in the investigation. According to the United Nations, several people have since been arrested in relation to the discovery, but Mazzitelli was not sure if they were Guinea citizens or not.

He said the next step is a UN-led mission that aims to dispose safely of the chemicals.

"Some of them, if not properly handled, might pose a serious health-related risk, an environmental-related risk, to the local population. Considering also, that in three out of the four seizures the chemicals were stocked in human locations," Mazzitelli said.

West African countries such as Guinea have become known as transit points for drug trade between Latin America and Europe. But Mazzitelli says this first-time finding of chemicals and solvents that can be used to manufacture the drugs is an alarming new discovery.

"What does it mean? It means that certainly this is the growing importance of West Africa on the narcotic overall worldwide map. Traffickers have already started to think about using West Africa for processing narcotics," he said.

Legislative and presidential elections in Guinea are scheduled for later this year. This past December, military ruler Moussa Camara seized power in a coup following the death of long-time president Lansana Conte.