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Cablegate: Unodc Reports First Precursor Seizure In

VZCZCXRO0914
RR RUEHIK RUEHPOD RUEHYG
DE RUEHNT #0948/01 2271221
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 141221Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY TASHKENT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0165
INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
RUEHAH/AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT 4279
RUEHTA/AMEMBASSY ASTANA 0493
RUEHEK/AMEMBASSY BISHKEK 4896
RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 0748
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 0523
RUEHDBU/AMEMBASSY DUSHANBE 0775
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 4476
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL 2767
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 0787
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 7542
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 1426
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC
RUEABNE/DEA HQS WASHDC
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0333
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1407
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 2734
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC 0332
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC 0183

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TASHKENT 000948

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR INL ANDREW BUHLER
ASTANA FOR ANTHONY BEAVER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KCRM KG AF IR UZ
SUBJECT: UNODC REPORTS FIRST PRECURSOR SEIZURE IN
UZBEKISTAN SINCE 2001

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED -- PLEASE PROTECT ACCORDINGLY

1. (SBU) Summary: Poloff met on August 8 with Mark Colhoun,
Senior Regional Law Enforcement Advisor at the United Nations
Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Regional Office in Central
Asia, which is based in Tashkent. Colhoun said the recently
conducted Operation Tarcet netted 1.6 tons of acetic
anhydride, the first seizure of this chemical in Uzbekistan
since 1997 and the first precursor of any kind since 2001.
Larger quantities of precursors were seized in Iran and
Pakistan, the first such seizures since March 2001. Colhoun
reported the operation was "well organized and executed" and
helped to raise awareness throughout the region about
attempts to import narcotics precursors into Afghanistan.
Colhoun also noted that meth is a growing concern after two
laboratories were discovered in Kyrgyzstan in the past year,
where ephedra "grows in the wild."

First Seizure Since 1997
------------------------

2. (U) On August 8 Colhoun informed poloff at a meeting at
UNODC's Central Asia Headquarters that the second phase of
Operation Tarcet, which targeted heroin precursor chemicals
bound for Afghanistan, recently concluded in Uzbekistan (but
is still winding down in some countries). He reported that
in April 2008 officers of Uzbekistan's State Customs
Committee and National Security Service seized 1.6 tons of
acetic anhydride on an Afghanistan-bound container which
originated in Korea. The precursor seizure was the first of
this chemical in Uzbekistan since 1997 and the first of any
kind since 2001.

Success Elsewhere in the Region
-------------------------------

3. (SBU) Authorities also broke long seizure droughts in
Iran, where five tons of acetic anhydride were seized, and in
Pakistan, where officials identified 14 tons. Colhoun said
these were the first seizures of this precursor in these
countries since March 2001. He added that Iranian
authorities also seized 16 tons of acetal chloride, which he
explained is an alternate precursor for heroin production.
The Tajiks also reportedly seized 156 kilos of acetic
anhydride. Colhoun said UNODC's Operation Tarcet was a big
success, and that it was "well organized and executed." He
added that it was a big confidence booster for law
enforcement in the various states, especially for the members
of the Central Asia Regional Information and Coordination
Center (CARICC), which helped coordinate efforts. Colhoun
also noted it raised awareness throughout the broad region
surrounding Afghanistan about criminal efforts to smuggle
precursors into Afghanistan for heroin production.

Is Meth on the Rise in Central Asia?
------------------------------------

4. (SBU) Colhoun informed poloff that methamphetamines are
thus far not widely used in Central Asia; however he said
UNODC is concerned it could be a growing threat to the
region. He mentioned that two meth labs have been discovered
in Kyrgyzstan in the past year, where the active ingredient
ephedra "grows in the wild." Cheaply produced meth, he said,
could quickly permeate Central Asia and adversely impact
communities already grappling with the higher volume of drugs
emanating from Afghanistan in recent years.


TASHKENT 00000948 002 OF 002


Comment:
--------

5. (U) With INL support, UNODC has been very active in
upgrading security on the Uzbek-Afghan border, where projects
continue. However, the positive news about the first
precursor seizure in Uzbekistan in many years will reinforce
to Uzbek officials that counter-narcotics efforts should not
focus solely on what may be coming from Afghanistan but
should involve close scrutiny of cargo heading into
Afghanistan as well. The regional success of Operation
Tarcet also bodes well for CARICC's efforts to encourage
collaboration among Central Asian states and sends a message
to drug lords that it may get harder and harder to bring in
raw materials for narcotics production.

BUTCHER

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