Afghan drug trade comes under UN scrutiny

The United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon urges Afghanistan to make fighting drug trafficking a priority as opium harvests soar in the world's top producer and said the world must help in the effort.

Powered by automated translation

VIENNA // The United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon yesterday urged Afghanistan to make fighting drug trafficking a priority as opium harvests soar in the world's top producer and said the world must help in the effort.

"Above all, the Afghan government must prioritise the issue of narcotics," Mr Ban said in his opening address in Vienna of a meeting of the Paris Group of nations and organisations established to fight drug trafficking in Afghanistan.

"Law-enforcement agencies must work harder on eradicating crops, eliminating laboratories, keeping precursors from entering the country, and inhibiting drug trafficking," he said.

Afghanistan grows about 90 per cent of the world's opium and production soared last 60 per cent last year, according to the UN drugs and crimes office.

Drugs make up about 15 per cent of Afghanistan's gross domestic product. Mr Ban also said reducing supply was only half the problem.

"There can be no real success without reducing the demand," he said.

"Nothing would be worse than inaction," said the French foreign minister Alain Juppe, the co-chair of the meeting, said.

The group was set up in 2003 to coordinate efforts to fight opium and heroin trafficking from Afghanistan and includes 56 states and a dozen international organisations.

"Without serious measures to destroy drug crops as it has been made for example in Columbia, we are going to fight symptoms rather than the disease itself," said the Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, another co-chair of the event.

He proposed a fund for channelling confiscated proceeds from drug trafficking to UN programmes on combating organised crime, corruption and drugs in Afghanistan.

On the sidelines of the conference, Mr Juppe and Mr Lavrov also met to discuss a French proposal to set up aid corridors into Syria amid a crackdown on anti-regime protesters but made no public comments.

Russia stands as one of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad's last major friends, vetoing with China this month a Security Council resolution condemning the regime for the violence, despite a barrage of criticism.