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NATO Says No To Opium Destruction In Afghanistan


http://gdb.rferl.org/6089DD8C-8783-4194-B952-87055685C169_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/6089DD8C-8783-4194-B952-87055685C169_mw800_mh600.jpg Afghan police on an opium-eradication mission in Shindand Province in April (epa) September 13, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has rejected a call from the head of the UN's Office on Drugs and Crime that alliance forces in Afghanistan be ordered to destroy the country's opium industry.


De Hoop Scheffer said on September 12 that it was not in the alliance's mandate to lead the fight against drugs.


UN official Antonio Maria Costa made the call for robust NATO action on September 12 in Brussels while presenting details of the UNODC's latest report on opium cultivation in Afghanistan.


"I plead for NATO to move on in its own responsibility," Costa said. "It is clear that a mandate is not there [for NATO forces to destroy opium crops without such a request from Kabul]. But unless there is recognition that there is a risk coming -- a military risk coming -- from the opium cultivation in the south, I am afraid it would be very difficult to solve the security issue."


However NATO troops currently do not destroy opium crops unless requested to do so by Afghanistan's central government.


The UN report shows Afghan opium cultivation surged by 59 percent this year despite millions of dollars paid in development assistance to wean farmers off the crop.

Opium In Afghanistan
An antidrug billboard in Kabul shows a skeleton hanging from an opium bulb (AFP)

OPIUM FARMING ON THE RISE Despite a nationwide program by the Afghan government to eradicate opium-poppy fields and offer farmers alternative crops, international experts say that the 2006 opium crop will be as much as 40 percent larger than the previous year's. Afghanistan is the largest producer of opium in the world, and the source of as much as 90 percent of Europe's heroin.(more)


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