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Senior UN official calls for increased action to nip nascent Afghan drug cartels in the bud

Senior UN official calls for increased action to nip nascent Afghan drug cartels in the bud

Corruption must be stamped out and borders strengthened to run emerging Afghan drug cartels out of business, particularly in the new ‘Golden Triangle’ of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran, the chief United Nations anti-narcotics officer said today.

“All of the Afghan opium obviously is exported,” UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa told reporters at UN Headquarters. “Most of it is exported either to Iran or Pakistan,” he noted, calling for strengthened relations among the three countries to stem illicit drug trafficking.

Mr. Costa, who briefed the Security Council yesterday on his agency’s latest report on opium cultivation in Afghanistan, called corruption the “major lubricant” facilitating both the cultivation and trading of opium.

He also welcomed a new Council-imposed initiative – in which major traffickers can have their assets seized, be banned from travel and face arrest – to prevent burgeoning cartels from becoming worldwide entities.

“Robbing a bank is much more profitable than working for a bank,” Mr. Costa said, acknowledging the financial incentives for harvesting illicit drugs.

To this end, he called for greater efforts to promote development in Afghanistan to present farmers currently engaged in opium production an alternative.

The UNODC’s Afghanistan Opium Winter Assessment highlighted the divergent regional trends between the centre-north and south of the country.

While six of the centre-north provinces, potentially doubling to 12 by this summer, have been certified as drug-free, “the situation is out of control in the southern part of the country,” Mr. Costa said.

The expansive southern region, roughly half the size of France, collectively has 100,000 hectares of land under illicit drug cultivation and currently has the largest concentration of narcotics in the world, he said.