TEHRAN, August 15 (Mehr News Agency) – High-ranking Iranian and Pakistani officials held their fifth meeting late on Tuesday in Tehran to seek ways to advance the campaign against international drug trafficking and production.

Common threats and interests prompted Iranian and Pakistani officials to search for a mechanism to fight the drug problem, said the secretary general of Iran's Drug Control Headquarters (DCH), Mohammad-Ali Hashemi.


Pakistani Drug Control Police Chief Iskandar Ali said production of drugs in Afghanistan poses a serious threat to both Iran and Pakistan.


Ali said, unfortunately, drug-related problems have been increasing in the post-Taleban era and neither the West nor the Afghan transitional government has thus far been able to take any concrete action on the issue.


Iran and Pakistan have suffered serious damage due to the drug problem in neighboring Afghanistan, so the two sides are serious in the campaign against drug production and smuggling.


They sit on the crossroads of major drug trafficking routes, so if they make joint efforts they can become major forces in the global battle against illicit drugs.


According to official estimates, Iran's anti-drug campaign costs the country about $800 million annually.


More than 3,000 members of Iran's Law Enforcement Forces have been killed in cross-border clashes with drug traffickers over the past 20 years, mostly due to the instability in Afghanistan.


Iran has confiscated 80 percent of the opium and 90 percent of the morphine intercepted worldwide according to the International Narcotics Control Board.


Every year Iranian police and customs detain thousands of first-time smugglers who attempt to conceal opium, heroin, hashish, or morphine in their luggage, shoes, furniture, tooth paste tubes, and other places.


"After the revolution in 1979, Iran, which had cultivated drugs for years, managed to eradicate opium poppy cultivation in a year and a half," said Antonio Mazzitelli, the Tehran representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which was formerly known as the UN Drug Control Program (UNDCP). Since then, Iran has done its best to stem the flow of drugs through its territory.


Forty-two thousand soldiers, police and militia, one tenth of Iran's armed forces, are deployed along the eastern border, which stretches 1,950 kilometers from Turkmenistan in the north to the Indian Ocean in the south. The border has more than 200 observation posts, dozens of walls blocking mountain passes, and hundreds of kilometers of trenches and barbed wire, an investment of one billion dollars, plus upkeep.


Iran's Majlis (Parliament) allocated $25 million to improve border fortifications in 2000. A total of 3,140 members of the security forces, including two generals, have been killed in the campaign against smugglers since 1979.


During the first seven months of 2003, although 23 members of the Islamic Republic Law Enforcement Forces have been killed in 250 military operations, about 80 tons of drugs have been seized.    


Iranian drug control forces seized over 250 tons of narcotics in 2000. UNODC has estimated that on average, states only intercept between 10 and 20 percent of all drugs. This suggests that some 1,000 to 2,000 tons of narcotics were either transited through Iran or sold and used in the country that year.


The UN Information Center has reported that 3400 tons of drugs were produced in Afghanistan in 2002, a 15-fold increase since 1979. 


Only by tackling the root of the problem can we hope to end drug trafficking.


About 33 percent of the heroin consumed in Europe and all the heroin consumed in Russia is produced from Afghan poppies.


Iran allocated $560 million for drug control over the past five years, $120 million this year alone. The international community is currently not attempting to fund alternative development projects and cultivation of replacement crops but is instead concentrating on rebuilding Afghanistan's infrastructure.


Iran is situated on the drug transit route to consuming markets, Europe in particular. Therefore, international cooperation and support is needed to solve the problem of drug cultivation and trafficking.     


Also, Afghan farmers whose livelihood depends on drug cultivation must be supported financially in order to completely uproot the problem.    


The replacement-cultivation plan, which is to be implemented through the cooperation of the Islamic Republic, the UN, and the Afghan government, is a serious effort in the campaign against drug production. Holding more Iran-Pakistan meetings can lay the groundwork for reaching the goal sooner and more efficiently.






News Code 1254

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