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Caucasus: New Drug-Trafficking Routes Cause Concern

Baku, 27 August 1996 (RFE/RL) -- The executive director of the United Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP) is today participating in an international conference in Baku on drug trafficking. The Vienna-based UNDCP said last week it is increasingly concerned over the development of new drug-trafficking routes through the Caucasus.

Executive Director Giorgio Giacomelli yesterday began a tour of the Caucasus and met Azerbaijan's Interior Minister Ramil Usubov. Giacomelli will also travel to Armenia and Georgia.

New drug-trafficking routes have been identified from Afghanistan and southeast Asia through Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. The drugs then arrive in Turkey, from which they are distributed to western Europe.

The UN provides aid to the Caucasus republics to train police and the judiciary in how to suppress the drug traffic, but the UNDCP says the situation has taken on "alarming proportions," and additional aid has now become urgent.

Large quantities of opium, heroin and hashish are the principal drugs which pass illegally through Central Asia coming from Afghanistan. The republics of Central Asia, which are also large poppy producers, have become a prefered route for drugs heading into eastern Europe, particularly Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, the UNDCP statement said.

The illicit cultivation of poppies in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan is estimated at some 2,000 hectares -- enough to produce around 30 tons of opium.