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Antonio Maria Costa (file photo) (epa)
UNITED NATIONS, March 21, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Antonio Maria Costa, the executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, said today that poppy cultivation in southern Afghanistan is "out of control."
In his progress report briefing at the UN today, Costa said that "in some provinces [opium-poppy cultivation is] increasing, in some provinces [it is] stable, but we don't have a specific number. Last year, I remind you all, the cultivation was 166,000 hectares."
Costa said the Taliban insurgency in the southern provinces of Afghanistan is playing an active role in the increase of the poppy growth and trade.
He said that there is a notable decrease in poppy cultivation in the northern provinces, but that the increase in the south will largely offset any drop in overall opium production in Afghanistan.
In its 2006 Afghanistan drug report, the UN singled out three provinces -- all in the north -- where poppy cultivation has been eradicated. Costa said that by June 2007 up to 12 provinces may be declared opium-free.