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Drugs Remain Threat To Stability In Afghanistan

Drugs Remain Serious Threat To Stability In Afghanistan, Security Council Warns

Stressing its fears that opium poppy cultivation could undermine the rule of law, security and economic development in Afghanistan, the United Nations Security Council today called for greater international efforts to combat the illicit drug industry as it endorsed the results of last week's reconstruction conference in Berlin.

In a presidential statement read out by Ambassador Gunter Pleuger of Germany, this month's holder of the rotating presidency, the Council said it backed the Berlin Declaration, which outlines Afghanistan's priorities over the short term. These include disarming and demobilizing armed factional groups and successfully holding national presidential and parliamentary elections, scheduled for September.

The Council said it welcomed pledges during the Berlin Conference by international donors of $8.2 billion - to cover the period between last month and March 2007 - towards Afghanistan's reconstruction.

But it identified narcotics as one of the greatest threats to the stability of <" &Body1=">Afghanistan, which is by far the world's biggest producer of opium poppies.

Mr. Pleuger said the Council wanted economic alternatives to be developed so that farmers do not turn to drug production to make a living. Neighbouring States should also cooperate more to hamper and eliminate drug trafficking routes, he added.

"Afghanistan needs both human and financial resources to tackle this problem," the Ambassador said.

Earlier, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, briefed the Council on Afghanistan, saying the Berlin Conference represented an impressive achievement and indicated global confidence in the leadership of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

But he said the road to peace and stability in Afghanistan remains beset by "daunting" tasks, including economic development, the drug industry and the lack of security.

"The vast majority of Afghans remain convinced that, above all, elections require prior disarmament," Mr. Guéhenno said, referring to September's scheduled poll. International security assistance to Afghanistan's fledgling national army is vital, he added.

Mr. Guéhenno said that dismantling the drugs economy would be an enormous challenge given that it generated more than half of Afghanistan's national income in 2002.

"Turning back this tide will take a concerted effort and patience, but the immediate efforts of the Afghan Government on the eradication front must also be supported."

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