UN anti-drugs agency holds talks with Afghanistan's Foreign Minister

UN anti-drugs agency holds talks with Afghanistan's Foreign Minister

Afghanistan's Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah has held talks about rising drug production in his country - by far the world's biggest producer of opium - with the United Nations anti-drugs agency and foreign government representatives in Vienna today.

Mr. Abdullah told the meeting with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) that drug control efforts are an essential part of rebuilding Afghanistan, which is recovering after more than two decades of either war or brutal Taliban rule.

"Opium cultivation and trafficking have a major destabilizing potential and might hamper all other efforts. Therefore, we are looking forward to the donors' conference in Kabul early next year as an opportunity for the international community to send a clear message of support for Afghan people," he said.

At the meeting, UNODC's Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa stressed the importance of balancing law enforcement efforts with the international community's need to provide enough resources for Afghanistan to rebuild its economy with other industries.

In October the UNODC released a survey showing that the area under opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan jumped by 8 per cent this year. Now there is opium production in 28 of Afghanistan's 32 provinces, up from 18 in 1999.

The survey also showed Afghanistan provides about three-quarters of the world's output of opium, which is the source of heroin. About 1.7 million Afghans, or roughly 7 per cent of the national population, work in the industry.