An independent United Nations body monitoring global drug proliferation today expressed concern that Iraq was emerging as a transit point for narcotics originating in Afghanistan and on their way to Asia and Europe.
Hamid Ghodse of Iran, President of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), said the pattern was similar to what the panel had observed in post-conflict situations elsewhere.
"Whether it is due to war or disaster, weakening of border controls and security infrastructure make countries into convenient logistic and transit points, not only for international terrorists and militants but also for drug traffickers," Prof. Ghodse said at a press briefing in Vienna, where the Board is meeting for its eighty-third session.
"It is therefore all the more important that both the Government of Iraq as well as the international community act swiftly and take preventive measures before the situation escalates."
Drug trafficking groups are said to enter Iraq's holy cities disguised as pilgrims to go about their business, he said. Recently, a large number of people were arrested on drug trafficking charges, and cases of drug-related intoxication are on the rise in hospitals in Baghdad and around the country.
The Iraqi Government has taken several measures to address the emerging problem, including the adoption of a national drug control programme and an action plan against drug abuse and illicit drug trafficking. However, the authorities also depend on international assistance to fully implement such activities, but the fragile security situation has limited the assistance that could be delivered so far, he said.
The Board consists of 13 members, who serve in their individual capacity, and monitors compliance with the provisions of the international drug control treaties. It ensures that adequate supplies of legal drugs are available for medical and scientific purposes, and makes certain that no leakage from licit sources of drugs to illicit trafficking occurs.
It also identifies and helps to correct weaknesses in drug control systems and determines which chemicals used to illicitly manufacture drugs should be under international control.