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18 November 2004 -- A report issued today by the United Nations says Afghanistan is in danger of becoming what it calls a "narco-state" as the cultivation of opium there increases enormously.
The report says opium is now the "main engine of economic growth" in Afghanistan and "the strongest bond among previously quarrelsome peoples."
The UN report values the drug trade at $2.8 billion annually, or more than 60 percent of Afghanistan's 2003 gross domestic product.
It says this year's cultivation of opium -- the raw material for heroin -- was up by nearly two-thirds, and now accounts for 87 percent of world supply.
The report's author, Antonio Maria Costa, says the problem too big for the Afghan government alone. He calls on U.S.-led and NATO-led forces to participate in operations against drug labs and convoys of traffickers.