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UN Drug Report Highlights Progress in Afghanistan --> An Afghan family at work in their onion fields, an alternative to poppies that is being promoted by the government (epa) June 26, 2006 - The latest annual report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODOC) suggests that some progress is being made in the battle to curb the use of illegal drugs.

The report highlights a decline in opium production in Afghanistan, but also an increase in cocaine use among Europeans.

According to the report, poppy cultivation dropped by 21 percent in Afghanistan due to government efforts to eradicate poppy fields and to convince farmers to grow other crops. However, UNODOC chief Antonio Maria Costa warned that poverty and continued insecurity in Afghanistan could reverse that decline.

Costa also warned that a growing number of professional, educated Europeans are using cocaine. Costa said cocaine use by celebrities and the media's tendency to downplay its use sends the wrong message to young people.

"The European governments are not taking the cocaine problem seriously enough," Costa said. "They don't seem to be learning from the tragedy of the United States. Consumption is spreading, especially among white-collar people, young people, the upper middle class, and it is considered almost an acceptable social behavior."

The report also said that cannabis use continues to be a problem worldwide. The report said "countries in the Caribbean, West Africa, and Central Africa are under attack" by criminal cartels seeking to open up new cannabis-trafficking routes, especially to countries in the European Union.

(Reuters, AFP)

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