Iran Slams NATO’s Indifference to Afghan Drugs Problem

A038259210.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- Iran blasted NATO on Wednesday for being “indifferent” towards Afghanistan’s growing drugs problem and called on European states to help Tehran fight smuggling of heroin and other narcotics from its eastern neighbor.

Iran is on a heroin smuggling route to the West from the opium fields of Afghanistan, the world’s number one producer of the opium poppy, which is processed to make heroin.

“The exploding growth in the cultivation of opium … in Afghanistan last year has created many problems … especially for Iran,” said Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam, secretary of Iran’s drug campaign headquarters.

The United States has failed to combat drugs in Afghanistan after US-led forces ousted the Taliban government in 2001.

“We think NATO and foreign forces in Afghanistan are indifferent to the issue of drugs and have put other goals as their priorities,” Ahmadi Moghaddam told a conference.

The alliance has about 50,000 troops in Afghanistan.

“Since the time they entered (Afghanistan) we are witnessing an explosive rise in the production of drugs,” he told the meeting in Tehran of officials from Pakistan, Afghanistan and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Iran is spending $600 million a year to prevent drugs coming from Afghanistan on the way to Europe, Ahmadi Moghaddam said.

“Iran requests the serious and practical cooperation of the international community, especially European countries, as the main destination for smugglers, in fighting drug trafficking.”

Based on UNODC data, opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan reached an all-time high of 193,000 hectares in 2007.

Iran shares a 900 km border with Afghanistan.

Security officials in Afghanistan say resurgent Taliban militants profit from the trade.

UNODC chief Antonio Maria Costa praised Iran’s anti-drugs efforts, saying, “We know the continuing loss of life in Iran as the country maintains a careful watch of its borders at the heavy, heavy sacrifice of so many of their policemen.”

More than 3,500 Iranian security personnel have been killed fighting drug smugglers since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

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